Thailand is poised to end the year with export growth of only 1.3%, the lowest since 2010, as it is highly unlikely that shipments will reach US$22 billion a month on average for the remaining three months, says the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC).
"Exports grew marginally in the first nine months of this year," said Aat Pisanwanich, director of the Center for International Trade Studies at UTCC.
"Even though shipments are expected to rebound in the fourth quarter, driven by economic recovery in the US, EU and Asean, the growth is unlikely to be enough to meet the Commerce Ministry's target of 4%."
Mr Aat said fourth-quarter exports are estimated at $60 billion, up by 5.1% year-on-year.
Commerce Ministry data show exports in the first nine months totalled $172 billion, up by 0.05%. But in local currency, shipments fell by 3.4% to 5.16 trillion baht.
Nonetheless, Mr Aat said exports are set to grow by 5.5% next year to $245 billion on the global economic recovery and renewed demand for industrial goods.
But he warned of further risk if the US government fails to address its debt crisis, with volatile foreign exchange a possible result until the first half of next year.
Mr Aat predicts a range of 30-31 baht against the US dollar in 2014.
Another wild card is Japan, whose exports could stagnate or shrink for a third straight year due to tighter economic policies.
Mr Aat said the Asean market is tipped for continued strong growth in the year ahead, with the region contributing 18.2% of Thai exports against an estimated 18.1% for all of 2013.
Shipments to China are forecast to rise only moderately as that country's economic growth slows next year.
In related news, the Thai Rice Exporters Association expects Thai rice exports will increase to between 550,000 and 600,000 tonnes a month in the remaining months from the recent average of 500,000 tonnes.
It cites strong market demand caused by depleted buyer stocks, prompting some countries to resume purchasing Thai rice.
For white rice, market competition from India and Vietnam remains intense.
In the first nine months of this year, Thailand exported 4.63 million tonnes of rice for 96.4 billion baht in revenue, down by 1.8% and 3.8% year-on-year in volume and value, respectively.