Despite the global economic downturn, Thailand’s food exports have continued to surge, as global consumers continue to trust Thai goods.
For decades Thailand has been one of the world’s largest exporters of food. Thailand’s terrain is ideal for agriculture and food cultivation, producing high quality crops, as well as a variety of food products including processed food, ready to eat meals, and halal and organic food.
In 2019, Thailand was the world’s eleventh largest food exporter, with exports valuing US$33.1 billion or 1.025 trillion baht. The country was the second largest food exporter in Asia, after China, which was also the largest importer of Thai food products.
In 2020, the ongoing global pandemic COVID-19 has had a negative effect on most global industries. However, the Thai food industry has maintained its positive trend. The first half of 2020 saw food exports from Thailand reach US$11.67 billion, an increase of 4.6% compared with the same period in 2019. This represented just over 10% of Thailand’s total exports.
The strong performance of Thailand’s food industry can largely be attributed to a higher demand for vegetables, fruit, frozen chicken, processed food, refined sugar and beverages during the COVID-19 lockdown.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has also shifted consumer trends, particularly in terms of safety and confidence. This plays to Thailand’s strengths.
Mr.Somdet Susomboon, DITP Director-General, says, “The DITP has introduced Trust Thailand campaign to boost consumer confidence in Thailand’s products in terms of safety and quality standards, which will help make Thailand’s products widely accepted among international consumers, and increase the country’s exports.
“The Commerce Ministry has set a goal to raise Thailand’s international trade value to attain Asia’s top five by 2027, up from eighth in 2019, by focusing on value-added industries such as digital, food and healthcare.”
Thailand’s demand-driven vision initiated by H.E. Mr. Jurin Laksanawisit, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce, aims to raise Thai food exports in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, through adding value to Thai food. As a result, the Ministry of Commerce has prioritised cleanness, safety and reliability.
Key to this strategy is promoting a better product image for Thailand’s food through initiatives such as Thai Select that recognises Thai overseas restaurants and food products that taste like ‘authentic Thai cuisine’, and the Thailand Trust Mark, an award given to excellent products and services made in Thailand.
The Ministry is also collaborating with other agencies and the private sector to deliver products of the highest quality not only in terms of cleanness, but also safety and reliability.
According to Mr Somdet, the DITP is developing strategic plans to cover the short, medium and long terms to seek new markets and product diversification.
“The new strategic plans also include assistance to entrepreneurs to export more products through online channels,” he says.
“The medium and long term plans, meanwhile, aim to promote exports through Thaitrade.com and support the expansion of online business matching, virtual trade fair activities and overseas online platforms by selecting product champions under a marketing-led production strategy.”
An example of this is the hybrid edition of THAIFEX Anuga Asia, Thailand’s largest food trade exhibition which will be held on both offline and online platforms from 22 to 26 September 2020, in order to align with the New Normal lifestyle. This will include a virtual product showcase: THAIFEXporter Virtual Tradeshow (www.thaifexportervirtualtradeshow.com).
Words by Mark Bibby Jackson