Factory clusters could cost export growth 3 percentage points, shippers warn

Thailand’s exports in 2021 might rise by only 7 per cent year-on-year, rather than a base-case forecast of 10 per cent, if the country fails to control Covid-19 infections in the manufacturing sector, the shippers’ council said Tuesday.

Exports could achieve the 10-per-cent growth milestone from a year earlier under the assumption that the monthly value for the rest of the year exceeds USD 20 billion, Chaichan Chareonsuk, chairman of Thai National Shippers’ Council (TNSC), told a briefing.

However, Chaichan warned of a possible cut to 7 per cent in case the outbreak, especially factory clusters, remains unsolved.

“More than 1,500 operators, largely in labour-intensive industries such as food, automobiles, and textiles, have been affected,” he noted. “This has resulted in a 20-per-cent cutback in production capacity and may cost the economy up to 60 billion baht each month.”

The nation now has the export sector as the only “active engine” to drive its stagnant economy this year, he said, as the pandemic has pushed away a chance to revive the country’s crucial tourism industry.

For the first six months of 2021, Thailand recorded USD 132 billion in exports, up 15.53 per cent year-on-year, thanks to low base levels last year and recovery in demand from key trade partners.

According to the TNSC, from now on exporters will be facing rising concerns from the outbreak situation, labour shortage from Covid-19 infections, high freight rates, and a lack of shipping containers and electronic chips.

The chairman also disagreed with full-scale lockdown measures, asking the government to exclude logistics-related operations to keep the supply chain running, coupled with a speed-up in vaccine distribution to factory workers.

​​”Vaccination must be expedited during the lockdown to minimize the spread of Covid-19. Otherwise, how much longer will the lockdown be extended?” said Chaichan.


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