Thailand: Food prospects still positive

Japanese food and raw material suppliers remain keen on exploring opportunities to expand their products in the Thai market even though Thailand’s domestic restaurant business is reeling from the pandemic.

Hiroki Taniguchi, director of the Agriculture and Food Department of the Japan External Trade Organisation (Jetro) in Bangkok, said the export value of food and raw materials from Japan to Thailand fared well in the first four months of this year, with a growth of 29.2% over the same period last year.

“This continuously high growth amid the ongoing [Covid-19] pandemic is evidence that Japanese food and raw material companies are still interested in expanding their businesses in Thailand,” Mr Taniguchi said. “Japanese companies believe Japanese food will remain in high demand amongst Thais in the long term.”

According to Jetro Bangkok, the number of Japanese restaurants in Thailand has rapidly increased since 2000 and has continued to rise every year because of widespread acceptance of Japanese food culture, a variety of price ranges, and more shopping complexes outside Bangkok.

There were 4,094 Japanese restaurants in Thailand in 2020, up 12.6% over 2019.

Of the total, 2,105 restaurants were in Bangkok and the rest in the provinces.

In 2020, the export value of Japanese food and raw materials to Thailand amounted to 11.46 billion baht, up by 1.5% from the year before. Higher exports came against the shipments to other countries like Korea, the United Kingdom and Singapore which contracted by 18%, 4% and 3.6%, respectively.

Japanese sweet potato is among the items most in-demand in Thailand, with imports surging by 104% in 2020 from 2019 because of higher household consumption.

In its bid to cash in on the trend, Jetro Bangkok has arranged online business matching and exhibitions of Japanese food products this year to explore opportunities for new food and raw material demand in Thailand.

The business matching event will take place on two occasions this year. The first round is taking place from July 5 until Friday and the second will be held between Oct 18 and Nov 12.

In the first round, the number of food Japanese suppliers which joined the business matching event increased to 137 companies this year, up from 131 companies last year. Of the total, 53% or 73 companies are new companies that have never exported their products to Thailand.