BANGKOK, May 30 (Reuters): Thailand's customs-based exports contracted more than expected in April as global economic uncertainty crimped demand but the commerce ministry said on Tuesday it was expecting shipments to pick up from the third quarter of the year.
Exports, a key driver of growth, dropped 7.6% in April from a year earlier, worse than expectations for a 2% year-on-year fall in a Reuters poll.
April's exports were valued at $21.72 billion, down from March's $27.65 billion, the highest in a year.
Global economic uncertainty has put pressure on demand, with several Asian countries facing sluggish exports, the commerce ministry said in a statement.
Despite the fall in April's exports, Keerati Rushchano, the ministry's permanent secretary, said Thailand's shipments fared better than those of other countries in Southeast Asia.
"We had even expected a double digit" fall, he said, adding that shipments should perform better later this year.
The ministry maintained its target of 1%-2% export growth this year.
Thailand posted a trade deficit of $1.47 billion in April versus an expected deficit of $450 million, with imports showing a 7.3% year-on-year contraction.
Exports of industrial goods contracted 11.2% year-on-year, with computers and parts falling 19%. Automobile shipments rose 3.4% from a year earlier.
Shipments of agriculture goods rose about 24% in April from a year earlier. Thailand exported 550,000 tonnes of rice in April and 2.62 million tonnes in the January-April period, up 0.9% and 14% year-on-year, respectively.
April's exports to the United States dropped 9.6% year-on-year and those to Japan fell 8.1%. Exports to China jumped 23% year-on-year, the first rise in 11 months, the ministry said.
For the January-April period, exports declined 5.2% from a year earlier, imports were down 2.2% and the trade deficit came in at US$4.52 billion. - Reuters