Container shortage a bigger worry for shippers council than factory Covid clusters
The Thai National Shippers Council (TNSC) has revised upward its forecast for Thai exports in 2021, from 4-6 per cent growth to 6-7 per cent.
Chaichan Charoensuk, chairman of TNSC, said in an exclusive interview that the export sector was the main engine to help drive the Thai economy towards positive growth this year.
In 2020, Thailand's gross domestic product (GDP) contracted by 6 per cent.
Thai exports grew 8.4 per cent in May, valued at $24 billion, the highest in terms of value in 28 months. The boost comes from the recovery in the global economy and trade, especially the US and China.
Thai exports that continued to expand well were rubber and related products, automobile products, electrical appliances, electronic devices, plastic pellets, etc.
Excerpts from the interview with Chaichan:
Do you think the Ministry of Commerce will adjust the export target from the previously estimated 4 per cent?
Of course, they set it too low. We in the private sector had a meeting with the Department of International Trade Promotion on May 18 to assess the situation together. The private sector confirmed that the number was probably around 6-7 per cent.
Part of the risk factors are the lack of containers for exports and the high freight rates?
Yes, the problem is still there. Also, there is the problem of labour shortage and electronic chip shortage in the automotive industry. Steel prices continued to rise and basic raw materials are all higher -- plastic, steel, paper or oil. However, they do not affect trade competitiveness because every country is going up the same way. Therefore, entrepreneurs have to adjust the price, and they have to plan well the production, competing on cost, price and quality.
Are you worried about the Covid-19 cluster in many factories?
Yes, I'm worried. Here, we need to speed up the vaccination process. I leave the state to accelerate the vaccination to cover the population quickly, so that our main engine of growth is not affected. Export is the country's last engine that still works well.
Covid factors and other factors -- what are you most concerned about?
I'm worried [about Covid], but less worried compared to other factors, such as the shortage of high freight containers and shortage of raw materials, such as a shortage of chips in the automotive industry and used in other industries, as well as labour shortage.
Is there still competition for containers with other countries, such as China and Vietnam?
Yes, with Vietnam. China is still the main one. They offer containers a high price because their exports are going well. Now, it's a seller's market. They will set the price and the quantity. The industry in Vietnam is also hot now with more exports than Thailand.
Will you have to work together with the Ministry of Commerce to create an export push plan for the rest of this year?
We talk to them periodically. In the short term, it is necessary to come up with a joint plan after the post-Covid crisis to expand our exports. We may have to discuss a strategic plan after economic recovery in the third or fourth quarter.
Will the government's THB500 billion loans be enough to deal with the third round of Covid?
Mostly enough. I would say enough. It depends on what are the plans to make it more tangible than in the past because we have already spent trillions. For the THB500 billion to be issued, I hope there will be a plan to use it to truly stimulate the economy or to put it in the hands of those affected, the real victims. We are worried that they will not reach those who are truly affected, the root of the problem.