By The Nation
The country’s major agricultural exports are fish, rice, fruit and rubber. Noting the increased competition from Vietnam, the office suggested that Thai increase its exports to other markets rather than become reliant on the Chinese market.
From January to March 2019, Thai-Asean trade was valued at Bt107 billion, a decrease of 4.56 per cent year on year. Exports were valued at Bt80 billion, a decrease of 3.08 per cent year on year, while imports were at Bt26.9 billion, down by 8.69 per cent over last year.
Of the Asean countries, Vietnam tops out as Thailand’s No 1 export destination, accounting for 22 per cent, followed by Malaysia at 17 per cent, Indonesia at 16 per cent and Cambodia at 12 per cent. In this period, Thailand had the largest trade surplus of agricultural goods, at Bt13.1 billion, followed by Malaysia at Bt10.1 billion, Indonesia at Bt7.69 billion, Cambodia at Bt5.89 billion and the Philippines at Bt5.56 billion.
In the first quarter, Thai exports of agricultural goods to the US, Japan and the EU improved, due to the weakening of the Thai baht. Meanwhile, the Kingdom’s agricultural exports to China were yet to recover due to the ongoing US-China trade war, according to the OAE.
Thailand should expand the marketing of key agricultural goods such as fruit groups to other countries, to reduce the sector’s dependence on China, said Chantanon Wannakejohn, deputy secretary-general of the OAE. Thailand has a key advantage over its key competitor, Vietnam, regarding the cost of transport to China.
Auto and air conditioning gains
The Office of Industrial Economics (OIE) reported that in April, the Manufacturing Production Index (MPI) expanded by 2 per cent, pushed by gains made in the automotive and air-conditioning sector.
The index found the production of cars and engines had grown by 13.6 per cent year on year for both passenger cars and pick-up trucks. Domestic demand for automotive continued to be strong, while there was also increased demand from Oceania, the Middle East, Europe and US markets, said Aditad Vasinonta, deputy director-general of OIE.
Air-conditioning and parts grew by 15.57 per cent overall year on year as domestic demand surged during the unusually hot weather. Furthermore, producers are switching to more energy efficient inverters, which are preferred by foreign markets. As such, year on year exports of air-conditioning and parts to Europe, Japan, India and neighbouring countries grew by 13.9 per cent.
Production of concrete grew by 10.25 per cent year on year in the first quarter, especially concrete used in construction and ready-mixed concrete. This was due to the demand from the construction of government infrastructural projects such as the Bang Pa-in to Nakhon Ratchasima Intercity Motorway Project (M6) and projects in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC). The real estate sector also drove increased demand for concrete.
Beer production also grew by 23.14 per cent year on year as various breweries that were temporarily closed last year resume operation. Additionally, manufacturers have been modernising their product packaging, leading more customers to purchase their goods.
The production of non-alcoholic beverages and drinking water grew by 11.88 per cent year on year in the first quarter, due to increased promotional activities and new product launches by various producers.