Chinese imports of food from Thailand are set to double in the second quarter as stocks have been depleted by the coronavirus.
Visit Limlurcha of the Thai Food Processors Association (TFPA) said Chinese demand for Thai food can be expected to at least double during Q2 2020.
Thailand’s annual food exports average Bt1 trillion (US$32 billion) while domestically produced food earns Bt2 trillion within Thailand.
The domestic market is expanding as the Thai population exceeds 70 million and around 40 million visitors arrive each year.
Rice is the largest food export, making up approximately 17.5 per cent of the total, followed by chicken, sugar, tuna, tapioca flour and prawns.
But Thailand has been told it risks losing its place as the world’s second-largest rice exporter this year because of the strong baht and a lack of varieties to meet changing market demand. India is the current world leader.
But Vietnam is exporting rice at lower prices than Thailand and targeting key markets like China, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Malaysia.
Thai rice exports last month fell by 40 per cent to 570,000 tonnes compared to January 2019.
Charoen Laothamatas, president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, said this year’s rice export target of 7.5 million tonnes was the lowest since 2013 when Thailand exported 6.6 million tonnes.
In 2019, Thailand exported 7.6 million tonnes of the grain, compared to 11 million tonnes in 2018.
The largest buyer of Thai food is traditionally Japan, followed by China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Visit said drought was another threat to Thai agriculture.
The TFPA has reported that pineapples, coconuts, longan, rambutan, lychee and sweetcorn were most at peril from water shortages.
Visit also said the strong baht was a concern for farmers, with every baht gained against the US dollar cutting food exports by approximately Bt35 billion (US$1.1 billion).
Last year rice exports fell by 22 per cent, sugar by 13.7 per cent, tinned tuna by 6 per cent and pineapple by 15.7 per cent.
Falling exports were blamed on weaker global demand, the strong baht and declining food prices.
Thai food exports accounted for 2.5 per cent of the global food trade last year.
Thai food exports to China last year reached Bt151 billion (US$4.8 billion), an increase of 34 per cent from 2018, making up 14.7 per cent of food exports.
Picture credit: IHA