ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Thai fruit in Japan
The Aeon retail group is one of the big customers for Thai mangoes exported by P&E Techno.
Thailand this year will also begin exporting fresh pineapples under the duty-free quota of the Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement (JTEPA).
Pimjai Matsumoto, the managing director of P&E Techno Co, a leading mango exporter to Japan, said her company had spent 60 million baht to install a vapour heat-treatment facility at Kasetsart University to control mango quality prior to export.
The facility is operated around the clock to supply mangoes to department stores in Japan.
P&E expects to export 800 to 1,000 tonnes of fresh mangoes to Japan this year, up from 500 tonnes last year, initially receiving a large order from the Aeon Department Store group.
Mangoes are purchased from contract farmers at a minimum price of 60 baht a kilogramme.
Ms. Pimjai said P&E had also invested in a sensor that can inspect the insides of mangosteens to ensure the fruit is not rotten.
As well, the company sells Thai fruits directly through Japan's Shop Channel television network. It received orders for 40 tonnes within four hours of its first broadcast.
TV and website sales each contribute 10 percent of total revenue, with the vast majority still generated by supermarket and convenience store sales.
All Thai fruits are sold with instructions for peeling, eating and cooking such as recipes for raw mango salad, ripe mango pudding, cakes and jellies.
Thai mangoes retail for 290 to 500 yen (104-179 baht) apiece, while mangosteens go for 80-150 yen.
Amparwon Pichalai, executive director of the Thai Trade Center in Tokyo, forecast growth of 20% for Thai fruit exports, especially with the new fresh pineapples.
Under the JTEPA, Thailand may export up to 100 tonnes of pineapples not exceeding 900 grammes apiece tariff-free, increasing to 500 tonnes after five years.
Amounts exceeding the quota are subject to a 17 percent tariff.
(tags: agriculture, fruit, exports, Japan, Thailand)
Post-election investment in Thailand
With a general election set to take place in early July, many are hoping for greater political stability.
"My view is that it's now a good time to consider Thailand again, because I think there's reasonable hope for more political stability," said Joseph Ferrigno III, managing partner of Hong Kong-based direct-investment fund manager Asia Mezzanine Group.
According to the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC)'s Asian Economics Report, hope is building that Thai politics will return to normalcy and parties on both sides of the divide will accept the results of the coming election.
HSBC forecasts that the Thai economy will expand by 4.9 percent this year, possibly supported by domestic demand and strong export growth. Next year's economic growth could reach 5.7 percent, it said.
In 2011, private consumption could grow by 3.5 percent year on year, while government consumption will likely expand by 5.3 percent. Investment is estimated to rise by 5 per cent.
"Increasingly, investment activities may also become a more active contributor to [Thailand's] economic growth this year, particularly if a successful conclusion to the election chips away at the political overhang that has afflicted the country for a while now," the HSBC report said.
The country's long-time economic engine, exports, could continue its upside, with a year-on-year growth rate of more than 20 per cent, particularly from strong exports from the auto industry.
Despite a short-term fall in some sectors, as a result of supply disruption from Japan, Thai exports and investment could pick up quickly after the probable relocation of auto-makers from Japan to Thailand.
HSBC expects inflation, which is relatively tame at present, to pick up in coming months after likely increases in product prices and the end of the government's diesel subsidy. Inflation could rise by an average 4 percent and reach 4.4 percent by the end of the year.
HSBC said the Bank of Thailand was likely to continue its interest-rate normalisation. It projected the addition of at least 50 basis points to the policy interest rate, raising it to 3 percent by the end of 2011.
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