CRC unit sees tourism pacing growth

CRC unit sees tourism pacing growth

Wholesaler predicts food sector should gain 2-3% in 2024 as arrivals increase

Mrs Suchada says purchases across all stores from business-to-business customers such as restaurants and hotels remained robust because of a strong tourism recovery.
Mrs Suchada says purchases across all stores from business-to-business customers such as restaurants and hotels remained robust because of a strong tourism recovery.

Thailand's food industry should grow 2-3% in 2024, driven by inbound tourists nearing the level tallied in 2019, according to Central Food Wholesale.

Suchada Ithijarukul, group chief executive for Thailand and international at Central Food Wholesale, an arm of Central Retail Corporation (CRC), said the outlook for the wholesale food industry remains positive in the first quarter, despite concerns over a sluggish economy.

"Food is a basic necessity for daily consumption," said Mrs Suchada. "Even if economic growth is slow, leading to lower consumption, people will still buy food products."

Central Food Wholesale operates five Go Wholesale outlets in Thailand.

She said purchases across all stores from business-to-business customers such as restaurants and hotels remain robust because of a strong tourism recovery.

With the government forecasting foreign arrivals to reach 35 million, generating revenue of 1.9 trillion baht, this should stimulate the food industry throughout the year, as 20-30% of foreign tourist expenditure is for food, said Mrs Suchada.

Thailand's food industry is valued at 2.6 trillion baht and should grow by 2-3%, close to the GDP growth projection for 2024 of around 3.2%, she said.

As Thailand is an agricultural country and food producer, domestic food prices shouldn't fluctuate much, keeping consumption stable, unlike in countries that rely on imported products, said Mrs Suchada.

Roughly 90% of food products sold at Go Wholesale stores are produced in Thailand.

"Foreign tourists prefer Thailand for its cheap food prices," she said.

However, Mrs Suchada said factors that require monitoring include geopolitical conflicts in the Middle East, which affect oil prices and transport costs, as well as high rates of interest and household debt that could impact the market.

She said she is hopeful the government will stimulate the export sector and offer incentives to increase tourism expenditure per person.

The group plans to open seven more Go Wholesale stores in Thailand, raising the total to 12 this year.

Each new store requires investment of around 400 million baht, with CRC's total capital expenditure for this year set at 22-24 billion baht, Mrs Suchada said.

Three branches are planned for Bangkok, while four stores are based in the provinces, she said.

The planned branches include one near Future Park Rangsit, covering an area of around 10,000 square metres, while another, spanning 7,000 sq m, is located near Ramkhamhaeng Soi 127.

Mrs Suchada said both locations have room to grow because of large populations in the surrounding areas.

The Rangsit branch is slated to open early in the second quarter, followed by the Ramkhamhaeng branch by the end of the second quarter.

Within five years, the company aims to have 45 stores in Thailand generating revenue of more than 60-70 billion baht, she said.

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