Thai exports return to growth in April, beat forecast

By Thomson Reuters May 23, 2024 | 3:37 AM

By Orathai Sriring and Kitiphong Thaichareon

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s exports returned to growth in April, and at a much faster pace than analysts’ expectations, and the commerce ministry said on Thursday shipments were expected to eke out a small gain in the second quarter.

Customs-based exports rose 6.8% in April from a year earlier, beating a forecast for a 0.35% increase in a Reuters poll, and compared with March’s 10.9% decline.

Exports, a key driver of Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, dropped 6.7% from March, however.

Exports this year will continue to grow well due to increased demand for industrial goods, which aligns with the global economic recovery and easing inflation, while volatile weather conditions will drive up agricultural prices, the commerce ministry said in a statement.

“We expect exports to rise by 0.8% to 1% in the second quarter,” Poonpong Naiyanapakorn, head of the ministry’s Trade Policy and Strategy Office, told a press conference.

Chaichan Chareonsuk, chairman of the Thai National Shippers’ Council, noted the export momentum, but said “geopolitical problems pose high risks”.

In the first four months of 2024, exports rose 1.4% from a year earlier. The ministry is maintaining its export growth target of 1% to 2% this year, after a fall of 1% in 2023.

In April, exports of industrial goods increased 9.2% year-on-year, while rice export volumes jumped 64.2% to 933,559 metric tons and value surged 92%.

Thailand, the world’s second-largest shipper of the grain after India, expects rice exports to exceed a target of 7.5 million metric tons this year.

In April, shipments to the United States rose 26.1% year-on-year, while exports to China dropped 7.8% and Japan fell 4.1%.

April imports rose 8.3% from a year earlier, against an increase of 5.05% forecast in the poll.

This led to a trade deficit of $1.64 billion for the month, compared with a forecast deficit of $1.7 billion.

(Reporting by Orathai Sriring, Kitiphong Thaichareon and Thanadech Staporncharnchai; Editing by John Mair, Martin Petty and Subhranshu Sahu)