May 22, 2014 00:00 By PETCHANET PRATRUANGKRAI
IN SPITE of some concern over the political uncertainty in the Kingdom, the "Thaifex-World of Food Asia" exhibition has drawn a lot of visitors, providing some basis for a positive outlook that food exports could grow by almost 5 per cent this year.
On the first day of Thaifex, Thailand’s international showcase of food products and innovation, many Thai and foreign buyers yesterday showed high interest in the event.
Srirat Rastapana, permanent secretary of the Commerce Ministry, said foreign visitors in particular had shown strong interest as Thailand has been recognised as the centre of the food industry in this region.
“Despite the internal political problem, the food processing and export sectors have not been affected. Thailand should be able to see food-export growth of 5 per cent this year to almost Bt800 billion,” she said.
She acknowledged that some foreign traders had made inquiries with the ministry about the unrest in Bangkok. It insisted that trade and business activities are operating as normal, and that the political problem will not affect their business.
Thailand’s food industry has always contributed greatly to the economy, generating more than Bt700 billion in revenue each year. Last year, food-export value reached Bt756.91 billion.
The government has in place a number of policies and plans to promote food products from Thailand and retain its status as the “Kitchen of the World”. The annual Thaifex event is one key strategies to demonstrate the capabilities of Thailand as one of the world’s major sources of quality food materials and production with dedication to food safety, Srirat said.
The event also provides a great platform for Thai food producers to meet directly with high-potential buyers from around the world. This will translate into a significant boost in food-export value and the overall Thai economy, she said.
Nuntawan Sakuntanaga, director-general of the ministry’s International Trade Promotion Department, said more than 96,000 visitors were expected to attend this year’s fair.
More than 1,500 leading food companies from 37 countries are exhibiting at the event in more than 3,200 booths. They include exhibitors from Thailand, the United States, Japan, mainland China, South Korea, Malaysia, Italy, Brazil, Taiwan and Turkey, as well as many other major countries in Europe and Asean.
In addition to a broad variety of food products, Thaifex 2014 is presenting a wide range of activities of interest to food professionals and others. Participants will benefit from the latest updates on food development trends and other information through a series of exhibitions.
This year, Thaifex is being held under the concept of “Experience the Best in Asia”. It is being held at Challenger 1-3, Impact Muang Thong Thani, until Sunday. (May 25).
Nuntawan said the fair was projected to generate immediate sales worth at least Bt5 billion.
Poj Aramwattananont, president of Thai Frozen Foods Association, said the declaration of martial law had resulted in positive signs of relief in the political tension. The food manufacturing and export sector should not be affected by the political problem, he said. Normally foreign buyers have a good understanding of Thai politics, and no one at the event has expressed any worries. Rojjanin Phatchararuangkij, managing director of Smile Heart Foods, said the company was optimistic that exports this year would grow by 20 per cent.
Although some foreign buyers, particularly in Asia, have cancelled their visits to Thaifex this year over concerns about the political situation, orders are still being placed on the understanding that manufacturing and exports will not be interrupted, he said.