By BUSINESS REPORTERS
JANUARY’S export value continued contracting by 8.9 per cent to US$15.71 billion on the same global factors
The decline was the 13th straight month and the worst since November 2011 when massive flooding caused factories and businesses across Thailand to suspend operations for more than a month.
Somkiat Triratpan, director-general of the Commerce Ministry’s Trade Policy and Strategy Office, said yesterday that last month outbound shipments were still confronting pressure, particularly from low prices of crude oil prices and agricultural products.
Last year, exports faced a global economy that had not yet recovered, plunges in global oil prices, drops in oil exporters’ purchasing power, low prices of agricultural products and currency devaluations in several countries that prompted high currency volatility.
“It’s clear that the global economy is worse than expected and this will have an impact on Thailand’s economic recovery,” Reuters quoted Charnon Boonnuch, senior economist at Tisco Securities, as saying.
Exports may shrink for the fourth year running in 2016 and the Bank of Thailand will need to cut interest rates at its March 23 meeting, he told the news agency. However, according to Reuters, Tim Leelahaphan, an economist at Maybank Kim Eng, said domestic demand was improving, so Thailand had no need to rush to act.
The central bank has left the policy interest rate unchanged at 1.50 per cent since April 2014.
The value of exports of agricultural products slipped 4.1 per cent year on year after global price drops, led by plunges of 25.7 per cent in rubber, 19.6 per cent in tapioca products and 19.2 per cent in frozen and processed shrimp.
Exports of canned tuna tumbled 15.1 per cent in value, while frozen and processed chicken sagged 2.3 per cent. However, their export volumes saw only slight drops.
Exports of rice and sugar jumped 30.0 per cent and 25.8 per cent by value and 68.5 per cent and 43.8 per cent by volume.
With global crude hitting an 11-year low of $27.30 per barrel, exports of industrial products contracted 8.5 per cent, led by a 25.2-per-cent fall in refined oil, chemical products and plastic pellets.
Gold exports dived 51.2 per cent, following falls in global gold prices.
However, exports of automobiles and parts turned to expansion at 4.1 per cent on higher export growth of passenger cars to Australia, Asean and the Middle East.
“Thai exports continued their contraction. That’s because the world is like this. We are still sticking to our target of 5 per cent [export growth] this year,” Deputy Commerce Minister Suvit Maesincee told a briefing.
Thailand will emphasise maintaining market shares for exports on expectation of swinging export-growth figures into positive territory, he said.
Exports to Thailand’s largest markets were off by 8.5 per cent to the United States, 6.1 per cent to China, 2.4 per cent to Europe and 10.1 per cent to Japan. Import value declined by 12.4 per cent to $15.47 billion, giving Thailand its ninth straight monthly trade surplus, of $238 million.