REFILING: JETRO helps Thailand become hub of processed food in Southeast Asia

BANGKOK, NNA - The Japan External Trade Organization is beefing up its collaboration with Thailand's state-owned National Food Institute in a fresh bid to transform the Southeast Asian country into a hub of processed food in the region and beyond.

Under a new agreement called "The New NFI-Japan Desk," JETRO's Bangkok Office says, the two countries will facilitate wider trading promotions such as consultancy, information resources, business matching and business expansion among Japanese and Thai food entrepreneurs instead of simply promoting bilateral trade in food products.

Hiroki Mitsumata, director of the JETRO Bangkok Office, said the new accord is also aimed at encouraging Thailand to become a key processed food manufacturing base for further boosting exports to other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, India and the Middle East.

To help strengthen Thailand's food value chain, raw materials from Japan will be shipped to and processed in Thailand to cater to Thai consumers and export such processed products to third markets as well.

Japan's food exports to Thailand totaled 32.9 billion yen (about $290 million) last year, down 8.2 percent from a year earlier, due to the yen's appreciation against the baht, deep-sea fish shortages in Japan and weak purchasing power in Thailand due in part to the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

But Mitsumata said these factors have had "temporary effects" and predicted that Japanese food exports to Thailand will post annual growth of 10 percent, as in the past.

By value, Thailand is the sixth-largest market for Japan's food exports after Hong Kong, the United States, Taiwan, China and South Korea. The main export products last year were pork skins used mainly for shoes and bags worth about 6.1 billion yen, bonito and tuna valued at some 3.9 billion yen and mackerel totaling 3.3 billion yen.

Thailand's food exports to Japan reached 130 billion baht (about $3.7 billion) last year, up 5 percent from 2015, making Japan its second-largest destination after the ASEAN market. Major export products include chicken, shrimp, ready-to-eat meals and canned pineapples. (NNA/Kyodo)