Shippers upbeat on 2021, though headwinds loom

The Thai National Shippers’ Council (TNSC) maintains its forecast of 3-4% export growth this year though the traffic slowdown at the Suez Canal and political unrest in Myanmar are threatening to affect 2021 exports.

The outlook is based on positive factors, ranging from distribution of more than 500 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines in 140 countries to the US proposal to increase the federal minimum wage from US$7.5 to $14 an hour, which is expected to increase demand for products from various countries, including Thailand.

However, there are many risk factors that could affect exports and prompt the need to monitor the situation, TNSC chairwoman Ghanyapad Tantipipatpong said yesterday.

The confrontation between the military and people in Myanmar led to fresh concerns over the impact on exports.

The value of exports to Myanmar has already fallen by 29.7%.

Traffic management at the Suez Canal, a key shipping route from Asia to Europe, is another obstacle after hundreds of ships were previously blocked by the Ever Given container ship, which ran aground in the canal.

The ship was finally freed from the shoreline last week, but the incident may result in overcrowding of ships at Said and Suez ports, causing a delay in goods delivery and an increase in freight costs, according to TNSC.

Ms Ghanyapad said the Covid-19 pandemic is still a hindrance to exports despite more distribution of vaccines across continents.

Infections are increasing rapidly in Italy, France, Germany and Poland, causing some countries to consider imposing lockdown measures again. This may affect economic activities, including international trade, she said.

A lack of unskilled workers because of travel restrictions and lockdowns may escalate, which could obstruct the recovery of the manufacturing and export sectors, said Ms Ghanyapad.

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