March export decline not as bad as feared

March export decline not as bad as feared

Commerce ministry still believes modest full-year growth is possible

Cars are ready for export at Laem Chabang port in Chon Buri province. Passenger car exports in March expanded by 8.7% from a year ago. (Bangkok Post File Photo: Patipat Janthong)
Cars are ready for export at Laem Chabang port in Chon Buri province. Passenger car exports in March expanded by 8.7% from a year ago. (Bangkok Post File Photo: Patipat Janthong)

The dollar value of Thai exports contracted less than expected in March as shipments of some key items improved, and the Ministry of Commerce now says it expects some export growth for the full year.

Exports dropped 4.2% in March from a year earlier, far better than the forecast for a drop of 14% in a survey of economists by Reuters.

The export value of $27.65 billion was the highest in a year, the ministry said on Wednesday.

“Despite the export fall, it’s still considered very good,” Poonpong Naiyanapakorn, head of the ministry’s Trade Policy and Strategy Office, told a news conference.

The ministry is maintaining its target of 1-2% export growth for the full year, he added.

The Ministry of Finance on Tuesday revised its outlook for exports downward, saying it now expected a full-year contraction of 0.5%, compared with a previous forecast of 0.4% growth.

The country posted a trade surplus in March for the first time in a year of $2.72 billion, versus a forecast deficit of $1.07 billion, as imports declined by 7.1% from a year earlier.

A baht exchange rate of 34 to 35 per dollar was favourable for exports, said Chaichan Chareonsuk, head of the Thai National Shippers’ Council.

Separately, Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith told reporters that exports should pick up around the middle of the year, helped by shipments of farm products and cars.

Exports of agricultural and agro-industrial products rose 4.2% in March from a year earlier, while shipments of passenger cars rose 8.7% but hard disk drives dropped 13.8%.

Exports in March to the United States rose 1.7% year-on-year while those to Japan rose 10.2%. Exports to China dropped 3.9% from a year earlier.

In the first quarter, exports declined 4.5% from a year earlier, with imports down 0.5% and a trade deficit of $3 billion.

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