Thai exports in February fell by 5.8% year-on-year on tepid global demand, baht appreciation and declining agriculture shipments.
But the government remains upbeat about achieving 8-9% export growth this year as earlier projected.
Vatchari Vimooktayon, the commerce permanent secretary, said Thailand fetched US$17.9 billion from exports last month, down by 5.8% year-on-year.
In baht terms, exports were valued at 530 billion baht, down by 11.3%.
Agro-industrial product exports fell by 13.5% in February to $3.02 billion including a 20.2% dive in rice shipments.
Other areas seeing declines were frozen and processed shrimp (down by 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.
The baht appreciation was a big factor behind the export slump, said Mrs Vatchari, adding that Thai exports can expect more pain over the next two or three months should the baht strengthen further.
She said the world's ongoing economic slowdown hampered Thai shipments to traditional key markets such as the US, the EU and Japan last month.
On the other hand, imports saw an increase of 5.3% to $19.5 billion, driven by gold, jewellery and machinery.
The country's trade deficit stood at $1.55 billion in February.
For the first two months of this year, Thai exports managed growth of 4.1% to $36.2 billion, with shipments in baht terms down slightly at 1.08 trillion baht.
Sompop Manarungsan, president of the Panyapiwat Institute of Technology, said Thailand remains poised to achieve its export goal as the large economies begin to recover.
The Commerce Ministry will probably revise the export growth target by mid-year after re-evaluating the global economic condition. The 8-9% goal is based on an assumption of the baht averaging 30 to the US dollar.
In an effort to ensure Thailand hits the export target, the Commerce Ministry set up a working committee chaired by the permanent secretary with members of the Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking. It will meet on April 9.
Srirat Rastapana, director-general of the International Trade Promotion Department, said she will also call a meeting of foreign trade officials by late May to discuss Thai export prospects.
The SCB Economic Intelligence Center believes like other Asian countries, Thailand will see a slow recovery of its exports as global consumption remains weak.
In the short term, operators should watch out for political uncertainties in Italy, as well as the banking crisis in Cyprus.
At home, the strong baht will continue to put pressure on the Thai export sector's competitiveness.
About the author
- Writer: Phusadee Arunmas
Position: Business Reporter