Exports grow at fastest pace in four and half years

Shipments of agricultural and agro-industry products drove the fastest rate of export growth in over four and a half years as a 13.2 percent expansion in August marked the sixth straight month of export increases after a three-year period in which shipments were stagnant and hampered Thailand’s economic performance.

“Exports of agricultural and agro-industry products also rose for the 10th consecutive month, while exports of manufacturing products went up for the sixth straight month,” said Minister of Commerce Apiradi Tantraporn when announcing the figures last week. She attributed the improvement to rising demand from Japan, the United States, China and Thailand’s immediate neighbors Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Viet Nam.

Exports are the most important piston in Thailand’s economic engine, followed by investment and consumption. Although policymakers have been attempting to achieve a more even balance between the three components, exports still retain their role as key to the Kingdom’s economic growth. Thailand’s exports have long been noted for their diversity: the country is a leader in food and agricultural exports such as rice and sugar, but also is a leader in shipments of higher-technology products such as computer disk drives and vehicles and parts.

The steady and strengthening recovery in exports was one factor in the Fiscal Policy Office raising its forecast for economic growth for this year to 3.8 percent, matching the forecast of the Bank of Thailand. The Office, which is part of the Ministry of Finance, also said that government and state agency investment was another factor that contributed to raising its forecast.

Pimchanok Vonkorpon, director-general of Trade Policy and Strategy Office at the Ministry of Commerce, said that exports of agricultural and agro-industry products surged by 24.7 percent in August compared to the same month a year ago. But exports of manufactured goods also performed well with a year-on-year rise of 12.2 percent. Chemical products, plastic pellets, and computers and components all saw significant increases in shipments, even as automobiles and parts fell by 20.8 percent.

Imports also climbed in August by 14.9 percent to $19.1 billion, giving Thailand a trade surplus of $2.09 billion.

During the first eight months of the year, exports have expanded by 8.9 percent compared to the same period last year. Their total value was recorded at $153.6 billion which is is two-thirds of the full-year export target of $230.5 billion.

Other economic indicators in August that pointed to a trend towards higher growth included an increase in domestic cement sales of 6.1 percent year-on-year, a 17-month high; and a rise in the Thai Industries Sentiment Index, which stood at 85, the highest in five months.