By The Nation
The Covid-19 virus outbreak caused uncertainty among people worldwide, including Thailand. As of February 28, there were over 82,000 infected people and over 2,800 deaths, causing many countries to issue measures to tackle this disease.
Demand for face masks continues to rise while supply is failing to keep pace, giving some retailers the opportunity to take advantage of the situation by jacking up the price.
Assoc Prof Aat Pisanwanich, director of the Centre for International Trade Studies (CITS) at University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said that the value of the face-mask market in Thailand during normal conditions was approximately Bt7 billion to Bt10 billion a year. However, the outbreak of Covid-19 has spiked demand for face masks to 50 million pieces a month from the normal 30 million pieces.
“We expect that the value of face masks in Thailand this year will increase to Bt15 billion to Bt20 billion, so it is an opportunity for manufacturers, retailers and importers to generate income during this crisis,” he said.
Meanwhile, Prayoth Benyasut, deputy director-general of the Department of Internal Trade (DIT), said that currently about 10 face-mask factories have increased production capacity to the maximum of 50 million pieces a month which will be sufficient for the country's needs if distributed to those who need it first and they use as needed.
“The Ministry of Commerce’s face mask management centre [war room] is cooperating with manufacturers to deliver face masks to authorities which need it, such as 18,000-20,000 pieces a day to THAI Airways, 350,000 pieces a day to Government Pharmaceutical Organisation and 200,000 pieces a day to government hospitals,” he said.
“Also, we deliver face masks to 80,000 Blue Flag shops nationwide, including Thai Pharmacies Association, convenience stores and modern trade shops.”
He said that the Thailand’s population was over 60 million people. It will be sufficient if patients, children, the elderly, and people who work with crowds are given priority in using it first and they use face masks made of cloth, which can be reused.
Meanwhile, the Central Committee on the Price of Goods and Services has asked face-mask manufacturers and exporters to stop exporting masks in this period to ensure there is sufficient supply to meet domestic demand.
“We believe that partners would understand our stand because many countries, such as China, Japan and India have also suspended exports,” Prayoth said.
“In the past, the factories in Thailand exported face masks but as our production cost is higher and our face masks are more expensive than from China -- the world’s largest mask manufacturer. Also, factories did not stock a lot of raw materials, so it takes more time to procure materials.”
He said the department’s move to increase production capacity was aimed to boost manufacturers’ and retailers’ incomes.
“The department is monitoring the distribution of face masks to prevent shortages, and is also arresting retailers who jack up prices. Therefore, we would like to ask all parties to monitor the situation to overcome this crisis,” he added.