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2013 exports may contract for first time in four years

EXPORTS this year will likely contract for the first time in four years because of the global economic slowdown and the domestic political conflict, which has started to dilute traders' confidence.

Exports this year could face negative growth of 0.06 per cent if shipments in December are less than US$19 billion. Or if shipments are valued at $19.5 billion, exports this year will end up slightly, by 0.2 per cent," Srirat Rastapana, permanent secretary of the Commerce Ministry, said yesterday.

Thailand will also run its biggest trade deficit in history - $20 billion - due to the slackening of outward shipments.

The Commerce Ministry yesterday reported that exports in the first 11 months hit $210.09 billion (Bt6.33 trillion), down 0.49 per cent year on year. Imports rose 1.22 per cent to $231.99 billion. That left a trade deficit of $21.9 billion.

The outlook for exports in the remainder of this month and next year could also be dim if the political demonstrations are prolonged, as that could weigh on consumer sentiment. However, manufacturing should be all right if nothing serious happens.

Thailand suffered a serious setback of 14.26 per cent to exports in 2009 in the wake of the US-led global financial crisis. After that, exports increased by 28.13 per cent in 2010, 13.96 per cent in 2011 and slightly by 2.99 per cent last year.

Last month alone, exports declined 4.08 per cent year on year to $18.75 billion, because of the sluggish global economic recovery and lower supply of food-product raw materials, especially shrimp.

Imports in the month shrank sharply by 8.6 per cent year on year to $19.31 billion, producing a deficit of $557 million.

The decline last month was seen in both the agricultural and industrial sectors. Shipments of farm and agricultural-industrial products dropped by 2.5 per cent year on year in November, compared with a 5.7-per-cent decline in the first 11 months. The decline in agricultural and agri-industrial products was partly due to a shortage of raw materials, especially shrimp. Prices of many agricultural commodities, such as rice and rubber, also slid.

Industrial exports plunged by 5.2 per cent last month, compared with a decrease of only 0.1 per cent in the first 11 months of the year.

Major industrial goods that lost momentum last month included automobiles and parts, down by 1.7 per cent, construction materials by 44.2 per cent, jewellery excluding gold by 3.3 per cent, rubber products by 5.3 per cent, radio by 5.3 per cent and refrigerators by 12.3 per cent.

Exports last month to many major markets declined, including down 1 per cent to Japan, followed by Asean countries, down 2.2 per cent. Exports to South Asia plummeted by 21.5 per cent, to South Korea by 10.3 per cent and to Hong Kong by 16.1 per cent.

However, shipments to some markets increased in November. Exports to the United States were up 5 per cent, to the European Union (15 countries) up 5.9 per cent, to Eastern Europe (12 countries) 2.9 per cent, to mainland China 8.5 per cent and to the Middle East 3.4 per cent.


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