Export Growth Target Maintained At 8-9%

The government is maintaining its export growth target of 8-9% this year despite lingering risks such as the world economic slowdown, mounting trade barriers, natural disasters and the baht's appreciation.

"We started seeing signs of a slowdown in export value after the weak showing in February," said Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom.

Thai exports fell by 5.8% to US$17.9 billion in February, but in baht terms they plunged 11.3% to 530 billion baht.

During the month, agro-industrial exports fell by 13.5% to $3.02 billion, weighed down by a 20.2% dive in rice shipments.

Other areas seeing declines were frozen and processed shrimp (-22.2%), rubber (-11.8%), fruits and vegetables (-8.1%) and frozen poultry (-6.5%).

Industrial product exports fell by 2.6% to $11.5 billion.

Mr Boonsong yesterday called a video conference meeting with foreign trade officials in eight Asean countries.

He plans more online conferences with officials in other regions before deciding on a possible export target revision in May.

"From talks with relevant parties and the private sector, we found that baht appreciation was a big factor behind the export slump," said Mr Boonsong.

"The industries that rely heavily on labour and domestic raw materials will be hit the hardest."

The minister advised exporters to speed their adjustments in cutting costs and seeking cheaper sources of imported raw materials, as the baht is expected to stay strong and probably get stronger.

Srirat Rastapana, director-general of the International Trade Promotion Department, said the Thai export outlook is shored up by such promising sectors as cars, electronics, raw materials, plastics and food.

The department has committed to holding more roadshows in foreign markets and promoting match-making and raw material sourcing for Thai exporters.

On top of that, plans call for the launch of the SMEs Pro-Active scheme to help small and mid-sized enterprises increase their exports.

The department has set a budget for SME support of 100 million baht this year, up from 15 million.

In related news, Anan Sirimongkolkasem, president of the Thai Broiler Processing Exporters Association, said reports of four cases of a deadly new strain of bird flu in China would do little to help boost Thai broiler exports.

The infections led Vietnam to announce a ban on poultry imports from China, while Hong Kong has tightened surveillance of flu cases.

Mr Anan said Thailand's poultry shipments are expected to remain on course for 600,000 to 620,000 tonnes this year, up 10% from 2012, with export value of 65-70 billion baht against 60 billion last year.

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