THAI EXPORTS in March were down 4.9 per cent year on year (YoY), leading to a 1.6-per-cent contraction in exports in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period last year, according to the Commerce Ministry.
The contraction could be blamed on the ongoing trade war between US and China, which has also impacted world trade, according to experts.
In addition, political developments in Europe, risks to China’s banking sector, low expansion of crude prices and the baht’s appreciation have also led to downward pressure on Thai exports.
The value of exports in March was reported at Bt663.22 billion, a drop of 5.6 per cent YoY, while imports for the month stood at Bt609.51 billion, a drop of 8.3 per cent, Pimchanok Vonkorpon, director-general of the Trade Policy and Strategy Office, said.
The country recorded a trade surplus of Bt53.71 billion for the month.
In US dollar terms, exports in March were worth $21.44 billion, down 4.9 per cent YoY while imports for the same period were reported at $19.43 billion, down 7.6 per cent YoY.
During March, shipments of agricultural and agro-industry products increased 3.2 per cent, led by fresh, chilled, frozen, canned and processed fruit and vegetables, and fresh, processed and frozen chicken to Japan, the United Kingdom, China, the Netherlands and South Korea.
Rubber returned to positive territory for the first time in 16 months with expansion in China, Japan, the United States, South Korea and India.
However, sugar and rice have seen contraction by 23 and 7.7 per cent, respectively.
Shipments of manufacturing products shrank 6 per cent, led by electronics items, computers and its components and hard disk drives, while shipments of automobiles and auto parts, motorcycle and parts and rubber products continued to expand.
Pimchanok said though exports in March had shrunk, the numbers were still satisfactory considering last year’s high base and last month’s figures.
If Thai exports continued to log $21 billion per month, the second-quarter growth figure will be positive, which could enable export growth in the range of 3-6 per cent.
She conceded that it was difficult for export growth to hit the ministry’s target of 8 per cent this year. Exports of $23 billion per month would be required to hit the 8 per cent growth target.
In the second quarter of the year, exports are expected to expand, as the US-China talks will likely conclude by the end of June. Other positive factors are rising crude prices and China’s fiscal and monetary stimulus.
Besides, the ministry is working to expand exports to new markets such as India and expects free trade agreements with several countries to help boost growth during the rest of the year.
Thailand needs to reset its export strategy, especially in electronic products as well as automobiles and auto parts in view of the rising popularity of electric vehicles, Pimchanok said.
Of Thailand’s main export destinations, shipments to Japan climbed 7.4 per cent in March, but shrank 1.4 per cent and 2.6 per cent to the US and Europe, respectively.
Thai shipments to Asean and China shrank 15.6 per cent and 9 per cent respectively during the
Meanwhile, Thai shipments to CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) and South Asia inched up 0.3 per cent and 1.6 per cent, respectively.