Furniture makers kick off AEC offensive with roadshow in Myanmar
Local furniture makers are preparing to cash in on the coming Asean Economic Community together, starting with a roadshow in Myanmar this year to showcase their products and network with counterparts."We want the trade show to make local entrepreneurs as well as individual consumers in Myanmar aware of Thai furniture. Business matching will be held for both Thai and Myanmar entrepreneurs to become business partners in the near future," Arak Suksawad, president of the Thai Furniture Industries Association (TFA) said yesterday.
The TFA, in conjunction with the Furniture Industries Club under the Federation of Thai Industries, has developed a cluster of 130 furniture operators. They also plan to work with the Department of Export Promotion to participate in the Thailand Trade Exhibition from December 6-9 in Yangon and from December 13-16 in Mandalay.
The real estate market has been boiling after Myanmar opened up. Hotels and apartments are springing up to serve foreigners visiting for leisure and business in the country. That has boosted demand for furniture. Thai furniture has been well accepted in ASEAN and there are great opportunities for Thailand to penetrate the Myanmar market.
Thai furniture makers next year plan to join with the public sector to visit trade shows and stage their own roadshow in three major countries - Cambodia, the Philippines and Indonesia.
In Cambodia, they are looking for local partners to expand their market domestically. The Philippines buys relatively more furniture from Thailand than other countries in Asean. Indonesia is a major manufacturer of furniture but needs different designs from abroad.
Verachai Kunavichayanont, chairman of the Furniture Industry Club, said setting up furniture factories in Myanmar is not a priority. First they want to find local partners to penetrate the market. Local plants would be considered once the market is ripening and a large enough customer base has been developed.
Thai furniture makers started investing in Myanmar 20 years ago, but some of them had withdrawn from the market out of concern over political instability. When Myanmar opened its market again, many foreign investors, including those from Thailand, became interested in expanding their presence in the country to stay close to sources of materials, such as teak.
Over the past three years, the cluster members, comprising the TFA and Thai Furniture Industries Club, have helped each another to strengthen local operators and gear up for the AEC. For example, technology and know-how have been transferred to local operators within the cluster in many provinces, including Chiang Mai, Surin and Phrae.
Thailand's furniture industry is worth about Bt65 billion, of which half is from domestic sales and half from exports. Thailand shipped out Bt19.7 billion of furniture in the first seven months of this year, down 1.79 per cent from the same period last year. Exports for the full year are projected to be even with last year's Bt34.9 billion.