Thailand may lose $65 million in first-quarter exports to China amid virus scare: shippers

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand may lose 2 billion baht ($64.6 million) in exports China in the first quarter, as the impact of coronavirus on supply chains weighed, a Thai shipping association said on Tuesday.

Exports of fresh fruits vegetables will be the worst hit, Ghanyapad Tantipipatpong, group chairwoman of Thai National Shippers’ Council, told reporters.

China was Thailand’s second-largest export market last year, purchasing goods worth $29.2 billion, or 11.8% of total Thai exports.

The group has maintained its forecast for overall export growth of 0-1% this year, as the virus is expected to cut shipments by just 0.11%, Ghanyapad said, adding that it expects exports to China to accelerate due to pent-up demand.

Thailand may also get more buyers who are seeking to replace Chinese products, she added.

Exports, a key growth driver of Thai growth, dropped 2.65% in 2019 due to global trade tensions and a firmer baht <THB=TH>.

The coronavirus outbreak has sickened thousands in China and killed more than 420; and the epidemic is expected to disrupt supply chains across many commodities and energy sectors.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the flu-like virus a global emergency and experts say much is still unknown about the pathogen, including its mortality rate and transmission pathways.

(Reporting by Kitiphong Thaichareon and Satawasin Staporncharnchai; Writing by Orathai Srirng, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)