Exports rose for a second straight month in January, albeit at a slow pace, edging up by 0.35% from the same month of last year after a 4.71% year-on-year surge in December 2020.
The Commerce Ministry reported that customs-cleared exports fetched US$19.7 billion in the first month of this year, with imports declining 5.24% to $19.91 billion, resulting in a trade deficit of $202.39 million.
A global economic recovery, massive monetary and economic stimulus measures, as well as effective Covid-19 vaccines coupled with extensive vaccination, had supported export growth in January, said Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit.
Excluding gold, oil, and weaponry, Thai exports grew 7.57% year-on-year in January.
"Food, work-from-home products and home appliances, as well as Covid-19 protection products continued to soar. Moreover, major industrial products, such as automobiles and parts, electronic integrated circuits, and computers and parts showed signs of recovery, providing positive momentum for Thai exports in the future," said Mr Jurin.
According to the Commerce Ministry's data, agricultural and agro-industrial product exports expanded by 3.7% year-on-year in January to $3.13 billion.
Products that still expanded favourably include palm oil (+345.1%), cassava products (+50.5%), fresh, frozen, canned and processed fruits and vegetables (+31.7%), fresh and frozen pork (+38.5%), pet food (+19.3%) and rubber (+1.5%).
Exports of industrial products edged up by 0.9 % year-on-year in January to $15.92 billion led by rubber gloves (+200.5%), automobiles, equipment and parts (+25.7%), fax, mobile phones and parts (+17.4%), electronic integrated circuits (+12.6%), furniture and parts (+12.4%), computers, equipment and parts (+9.2%) and rubber tyres (+4.2%).
Phusit Ratanakul Sereroengrit, newly-appointed director-general of the Trade Policy and Strategy Office, said exports in 2021 should move in a favourable direction, corresponding to the vibrant signs of global economic recovery including continuously higher demand for industrial products, rising global oil demand and effective distribution of Covid-19 vaccines in several regions.
He said the US stimulus package worth $1.9 trillion is expected to help boost demand in the US market.
"The export trend is expected to improve from the global economic recovery, rising oil prices and Covid-19 vaccinations," he said.
"If the export volume is averaged at $20.09 billion per month, export growth could reach 4% this year as targeted by the Commerce Ministry."
However, he added a new wave of Covid-19 outbreak, international transport problems and container shortage, as well as the baht's appreciation remain the key risks for exports this year.
Ghanyapad Tantipipatpong, chairwoman of the Thai National Shippers' Council, said January's results were not bad, citing the growth was considered relatively high once volatile gold, oil and weaponry were excluded.