Thailand: November exports hit record nine-month high
Thailand’s exports unexpectedly surged 10.2% year-on-year in November, hitting a record high in nine months and raising the government’s hope that whole-year exports could eke out marginal growth this year. The Commerce Ministry yesterday said exports bounced back strongly in November to US18.9 billion after falling 4.2% year-on-year in October and against growth of 3.4% and 6.5% in September and August, respectively. Pimchanok Vonkhorporn, deputy director-general of the Commerce Ministry’s trade policy and strategy office, said higher exports indicate a global economic recovery led by the US and Japan, and rising oil prices.
The ministry said exports of agricultural and agribusiness products rose 12.7% in November, fetching $2.9 billion, boosted by higher shipments, particularly of rice which surged 25.9% year-on-year, rubber up 15.6%, and tapioca up 18.4%. Exports of industrial products also increased 9.8% last month to copy4.9 billion, led by machinery and parts, and plastic pellets.
Japan was the market with the strongest growth at 22.5% in November, followed by China at 22%, the European Union at 13.8%, and the US at 10.3%. However, shipments to the Middle East tumbled by 21.4% last month. In November, imports rose 3% higher from the same month in the previous year at copy7.4 billion, producing a trade surplus of copy.54 billion.
For the first 11 months of this year, exports totalled 197 billion, down marginally by 0.05% year-on-year, with imports shrinking 5.1% to 177 billion. The trade surplus for the period totalled 19.7 billion.
“The Commerce Ministry is more upbeat that exports for the whole year will stay in positive territory or in a range of -0.1% to +0.2%,” she said.
“For the final month, if we can fetch 17.6 billion, exports can manage growth of 0.2% in 2016, marking the first expansion in four years.”
According to Ms Pimchanok, the ministry forecasts next year’s exports to move in a range of 2.5-3% on expectation of global economic recovery.
However, she noted the need for close monitoring, particularly of Europe’s economy, which remains weak, Britain’s departure from the EU and a possible trade war between the US and China triggered by President-elect Donald Trump’s protectionist policies and tariff rise against Chinese products.
Nopporn Thepsithar, president of the Thai National Shippers’ Council, said November’s export surge may stem from high oil prices as indicated by the rise in shipments of finished oil and plastic pellets, as well as higher oil exports. “The opportunity for exports to escape contraction is likely, as shipments in December normally fare well thanks to festive season.”
However, he said the council predicted this year’s exports to contract 1% to zero growth.
Next year, exporters also predict exports will grow by 0-1%, much lower than the Commerce Ministry’s forecast.
Kobsak Phutrakul, assistant minister to the Prime Minister’s Office, said with export performance moving in the same direction in many exporting countries such as Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia, it clearly reflects the global economic recovery.