BANGKOK: Thailand's exports in May rose a faster than expected 10.5 per cent from a year earlier, helped by increased global food demand and production, and a weak baht, with the trend set to continue this year, the commerce minister said on Friday.
Exports, a key driver of Thai growth, beat a forecast rise of 6.7 per cent in May in a Reuters poll and compared with a 9.9 per cent increase in the previous month.
Excluding gold, oil-related products and weaponry, shipments increased 11.1 per cent year-on-year, Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit told a news conference.
Exports should continue to grow and beat the ministry's target of 4-5 per cent growth this year, he said, adding shipments had already increased 12.9 per cent year-on-year in the January-May period.
"The global manufacturing sector continues to expand so there is demand for raw material from Thailand," he said.
"A weakening baht is also helping export competitiveness," he added. The Thai currency has been trading at its weakest level in more than five years against the dollar.
However, baht weakness will also push up the cost of imported materials for production, Jurin said.
In May, the export gains were helped by agricultural and agro-industrial products, with rice shipments up 24.7 per cent from a year ago, while industrial goods increased 4.2 per cent, the ministry said in a statement http://www.tpso.moc.go.th/sites/default/files/inter_trade_monthly/2565/May_65/press_release_eng_may_22_final_1_july.pdf.
The ministry sees rice exports of 7.5 million tonnes to 8 million tonnes this year.
Exports to key markets were higher in May, with those to the United States up 29.2 per cent from a year earlier and those to China up 3.8 per cent, and shipments to Southeast Asia up 10.4 per cent.
In May, imports jumped 24.2 per cent from a year ago, with a trade deficit of $1.87 billion in the month.