Exports continue growth in August, but slacken pace

Exports rose in August at a slower pace than the previous month, attributed to the government’s tighter restrictions affecting manufacturing and logistics systems.

The Commerce Ministry reported on Friday customs-cleared exports rose 8.39% year-on-year in August to US$22 billion, with imports increasing by 47.9% to $23.2 billion, resulting in a trade deficit of $1.22 billion.

It was the sixth consecutive monthly increase for exports, after gains of 20.3% in July, 43.8% in June, 41.6% in May, 13.1% in April and 8.47% in March, following a 2.59% contraction in February.

Exports in the real sector (excluding gold, oil-related products and weaponry) continued to rise by 19.4% in August from the same month last year.

For the first eight months this year, exports expanded by 15.3% to $177 billion, while imports rose by 31% to $176 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of $1.41 billion.

Products that expanded strongly in August continued to be agricultural and food products such as rubber, vegetables and fruit, palm oil, cassava products, rice, pet food and sugar; work-from-home products and home appliances such as computers, telephones and parts, microwave ovens, fax machines, telephones and parts, and radio and TV receivers and parts; and products related to Covid-19 such as medical devices, pharmaceutical products and rubber gloves.

Other gains included products related to the manufacturing sector such as steel and steel products, chemicals, plastic resins, rubber products, electronic integrated circuits, and machinery and parts; durable goods or luxury goods such as automobiles and parts; and gems and jewellery (excluding gold).

According to the ministry’s statistics, agricultural and agro-industrial product exports rose for the ninth consecutive month, with growth of 24.3% year-on-year in August to $3.88 billion led by rubber (+98.8%); fresh, chilled, frozen, canned and processed vegetables and fruit (+84.8%); palm oil (+51%); cassava products (+48.4%); rice (+25.4%); pet food (+17.3%); and sugar (+5.5%).

Industrial product exports also increased for the sixth consecutive month with a growth rate of 3.3% in August to $17.1 billion. Top gainers included oil-related products (+68.3%); automobiles, equipment and parts (+17.8%); motorcycles and parts (+44.3%); computers, equipment and parts (+10.5%); iron, steel and related products (+60.3%); and gems and jewellery excluding gold (+35.7%).

Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit said the slower growth in August was primarily because of the government’s tighter lockdown measures that led some factories to close, while affecting the country’s overall logistics systems.

Mr Jurin said slow growth is also anticipated in September, but he believes exports are likely to post double-digit growth in 2021, supported by improved global demand, a depreciating baht and proactive export promotion by the ministry and the private sector.

Chaichan Chareonsuk, chairman of the Thai National Shippers’ Council, said given the export results in the first eight months this year, the council is more upbeat exports are likely to post 12% growth this year.

However, he said risk factors still persist such as high freight rates, shipping space shortage for routes to the US and Europe, and a chip shortage for electronics and automobiles.

“More importantly, the Covid-19 spread continues at some industrial factories,” said Mr Chaichan.

“Although the infection situation has improved, we can’t be complacent or careless.”

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