THE Thai National Shippers' Council (TNSC) has raised its forecast for export growth to 8 per cent for this year, scrubbing out an earlier estimate for 6 per cent expansion after the value of shipments hit a record high in March.
For the final month of the third quarter, exports jumped 7.1 per cent year-on-year to Bt22.36 billion.
Ghanyapad Tantipipatpong, chairman of the Thai National Shippers' Council (TNSC), cited the improving economies of Thailand's major trading partners and the higher prices of oil-related and agricultural products on the back of higher crude prices.
Additionally, Thailand has gained from more market diversification for exports, Ghanyapad said. Some 30.4 per cent of exports were destined for Thailand's main markets, with a range of markets making up the rest.
The government has also pushed the development of e-commerce, which is seen as providing more opportunities and channels for product distribution, Ghanyapad said. Recently, the government joined with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group to open wider the Chinese market, focusing on agricultural products. Durians and rice are the main thrust of the initial phase.
However, risks growth remain, extending from the slight US dollar appreciation against the baht after investors' easing concerns over trade wars and higher bond yields to congestion at the Laem Chabang port, which could lead to higher logistics costs.
Visit Limlurcha, TNSC vice president, said further potential obstacles to export growth included an escalation in the Syrian war, capital markets volatility, and issues to relating to agricultural products such as rubber, pineapple, tapioca and sugar.
Ghanyapad said the TNSC has proposed that the government prepare for any fallout from a US-China trade war and seize an opportunities to promote Thai exports as a result of the stand-off.
The council has urged the state sector to follow up on non-tariff barriers (NTBs) and discuss the possibility of relief measures with business operators over the short and long term. The government should also help companies to better understand the role of foreign exchange hedging to increase their long-term bargaining power and alleviate the impact of NTBs.
Further, Ghanyapad said the public sector should monitor product standards and mechanisms to determine the prices of export products and how this could affect products sold locally by multinationals. Also, the authorities should develop business to business (B2B) channels as well as cross-border trade flows amid a greater focus on e-commerce traders, Ghanyapad said.
Kongrit Chantrik, executive director of TNSC, said that exporters are still concerned over the baht appreciation and advises that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) should hedge against foreign exchange risks.
The baht has moved in a range of 31 to 32 to the US dollar, as the TNSC expects.
Freight prices have tended to increase on almost all routes, said Kongrit, and are forecast to keep rising in the second quarter of this year. Sea shipments of Chinese products would rise after slowdowns over the period of Chinese New Year, Kongrit said.