Sent by our staff in Thailand
Hundreds of Japanese food processors that have relocated to China from Thailand over the past decade are expected to return due to growing concerns over food safety, says Paiboon Ponsuwanna. Mr Paiboon, the chairman of the Food Processing Industry Club of the Federation of Thai Industries, said worries about chemical contamination and food safety had affected confidence among Japanese consumers of goods produced in China.
Thailand could be a strong beneficiary, as Japanese small and medium-sized producers who had relocated to China consider returning to Thailand, he said.
The FTI plans to hold talks with the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and the Japan External Trade Organisation about matchmaking activities and building trading networks between local and Japanese businesses.
Mr Paiboon said Thai ready-to-eat products could be positioned as premium-grade goods, with Chinese products marketed as more basic products.
He said the enactment of the Japan-Thai free-trade agreement starting next month would also lead hundreds of Japanese food processors in the country to expand their production capacity to take advantage of tariff gains.
The National Food Institute (NFI) said exports of food products this year are expected to reach $17.72 billion, up 18.3% from last year. In baht terms, food exports are projected at 608.04 billion baht, up 7.8% from last year.
Yuthasak Supasorn, an executive director of the NFI, said exports of commodities such as palm oil, sugar, cassava and non-alcoholic beverages had risen by as high as 40% this year.
But shipments of fruit and vegetable juice, canned tuna and shrimp had been flat or had even declined due to supply constraints.
Mr Yuthasak said food exports in 2008 are expected to rise at least 10% in both US dollar and baht terms.
Rice exports next year are expected to rise to nine million tonnes in 2008 from 8.5 million tonnes this year due to supply constraints in Vietnam and India, he added.