BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s exports may contract by 15% this year as the coronavirus pandemic hits global demand and a stubbornly strong baht <THB=TH> adds to pressure, a Thai shipping association said on Tuesday.
Exports, a key driver of Thai growth, slumped 15.2% in the second quarter from a year earlier and 7.1% in the January-June period.
The export picture in the third quarter will be similar to the second period as the global economy has yet to recover, Ghanyapad Tantipipatpong, chairwoman of the Thai National Shippers’ Council, told reporters.
While the group keeps its 2020 export target of minus 10% for now, Ghanyapad said there were more negative factors than positive ones and it was therefore possible that shipments could fall by 15%.
That would be the sharpest decline since the commerce ministry started compiling records on exports in 1992 and compares with a 14.3% drop in 2009, during the global financial crisis.
The baht was at 31.05 per dollar at 0710 GMT, a month high. The current level is much stronger than the 33-34 per dollar level needed to help exports, Ghanyapad said.
“We want to shout to the central bank to help take care of it,” she said. “The Thai economy is not better than the global economy but why the baht keeps strengthening?”.
The central bank previously said the strength of baht could hurt the recovery of Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy which it predicts will contract by a record 8.1% this year.
(Reporting by Kitiphong Thaichareon; Writing by Orathai Sriring; Editing by Martin Petty)