In March, shipments declined to US$19.94 billion while imports fell 14.19% to $18.48 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of $1.46 billion, said commerce permanent secretary Srirat Rastapana.
For the first quarter, exports dropped by 1% to $56.21 billion while imports slowed 15.41% to $55.50 billion, representing a trade surplus of $706 million.
Among the factors affecting exports were the prices of rice, especially 5% white grain, whose price had to be on par with those of rivals to remain competitive.
Rice exports to Togo, Malaysia and Cameroon increased.
Demand for rubber of major buyers — China, Malaysia and Japan — declined. The slow pace of economic recovery in China, the United States and Japan hurt rubber demand. World rubber stocks also remained at high levels.
China's demand for tapioca chip and flour remained strong.
For 2014, Thai exports have the potential to increase by 5% provided the world economy expands in a range between 3.6% and 3.7% as projected by the International Monetary Fund; prices of world industrial raw materials rise by 1.3% and the foreign exchange rate is at 31.50 baht to the dollar (compared to 32.7 at present).
For the second quarter, the exports are forecast to grow in a range between 4% and 4.5% to $58.6 and $58.9 billion under the same scenarios.
For the latter half, Thai shipments would expand by 7-9% to $123.50 to $125.80 billion, meeting the 5% whole-year growth target.
If the political situation normalises quickly, the shipments could grow by 10% for the whole year, largely due to the IMF's 3.6% world economic growth projection, up from 3% in 2013.
A weaker baht will further boost the export growth.