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Inflation rises slightly in April

Report by World Bank projects Thailand’s GDP growth to slow to 4.5% in 2003

Thailand to form global alliance to push up sugar prices

More palm oil production promoted for bio-diesel to reduce oil imports

Inflation rises slightly in April

Latest figures show the country’s inflation rate in April was 0.4 percentage points higher than in March and 1.6 percentage points higher than it was in a year ago on April of 2002 due to rising domestic consumption which increased prices of food and beverages.

The Commerce Ministry’s permanent secretary Karun Kittisataporn said this will be only a short-term concern and that the country’s inflation rate for this year would be about 1.5-2.0 percent as previously projected.

Karun said, "The present inflation rate confirms that Thailand is unlikely to encounter deflationary pressure as feared."

The ministry conducted a survey of 326 items of goods and services in order to determine the consumer price index in April. The country’s average inflation rate during the first four months of this year was 1.8 percent over the same period last year.

Consumer products costing more in April were jasmine rice, fresh chicken, vegetables and fruits, while those that cost less included gasoline, both diesel and benzene, and residential rents.

The non-food products’ consumer price index stood at 104.4 in April, the same rate as that of March, but was 0.2 percentage points higher than the same month of last year. (TNA)

Report by World Bank projects Thailand’s GDP growth to slow to 4.5% in 2003

An report put out by the World Bank said it expects Thailand’s gross domestic product growth to slow to 4.5% this year compared with 5.2% last year, due to the impact the SARS epidemic is having on the country’s and East Asia’s trade and tourism.

The report stated that there is increasing confirmation that tourism, which contributes to 6% of Thailand’s GDP, has been dealt a serious blow by SARS and the impact could have lasting effects well into the third quarter.

Figures also show that Thailand’s booming exports were slowing down. During the first quarter of this year exports showed a 20 percent year-on-year growth but the month of April witnessed a slowdown.

"The high growth in exports and in export orders of the first two months of 2003 is now replaced by much slower growth in March which looks unlikely to recover until after the first half of 2003," the report said.

On a more positive note, increased private consumption is expected to play a key role in increasing GDP growth. The manufacturing sector grew by more than 8 percent.

Exports to China expanded 24 percent, highlighted by an increase in manufactured goods, particularly those in the technology-intensive category. (TNA)

Thailand to form global alliance to push up sugar prices

Thailand recently organized the world’s first meeting of sugar exporters in a bid to solve the problem of low sugar prices on the global market.

Ruengsak Ngamsomphak, the secretary-general of the Sugar and Sugarcane Board said the meeting marks a change of strategy on the part of the government, which has previously only tried to shore up domestic sugar and sugarcane prices, without garnering international support.

Thailand invited Brazil, Australia, South Africa and Guatemala to the meeting held in Phuket, which brought together the world’s five largest sugar exporters to form a global alliance.

As an initial measure, Thailand, Australia and Brazil will join together to mount a complaint against the European Union with the World Trade Organization. "The EU is breaking free trade criteria," Ruengsak said.

EU subsidies have enabled its domestic farmers to dump 4 million tons of cheap sugar per year on world markets.

Brazil is currently the world’s largest sugar exporter, producing 10 million tons per year, while Thailand falls in second place with exports of 4.5 million tons. (TNA)

More palm oil production promoted for bio-diesel to reduce oil imports

The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives is preparing to pour 2 billion baht into the promotion of oil palm cultivation over a two-million rai area in hopes of spurring the production of bio-diesel.

Deputy Agriculture and Cooperative Minister Newin Chidchob said that the ministry intends to introduce a new dimension to agricultural production by focusing on health and safety concerns in accordance with the government’s target of turning 2004 into a year of food safety and agriculture for energy.

Under the new scheme the ministry will encourage farmers to grow crops for the manufacture of bio-diesel, which would both reduce oil imports and generate extra income and employment for the agricultural sector.

Projects for 2004 will include the transformation of around 700,000 rai of land into land suitable for oil palm cultivation, and the use of high-performing strains.

The use of bio-diesel could save the public as much as 2 baht per liter on normal petrol prices, and ensure income security for palm oil farmers. The Agricultural Engineering Division is currently studying the use of farming equipment powered by bio-diesel in local communities. (TNA)