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Thai food exports fall short due to migrant labour shortage

Free Malaysia Today, Thailand, 14 December 2021 - Although global demand is recovering substantially, Thailand’s labour-intensive food processing industry, which relies heavily on migrant workers, is struggling to regain momentum and is unlikely to boost exports due to labour shortages caused by a persistent Covid pandemic.

After the pandemic’s severe third wave began early this year, many migrant workers, mostly from Myanmar, had their work permits expired and were forced to go back to their home countries.

The Thai government also sealed the border to prevent infections. A large number of workers found it impossible to enter Thailand, creating a labour shortage for Thai businesses.

According to Supant Mongkolsuthree, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), Thailand is forecast to be short of around 500,000 migrant workers. “Some labour-intensive sectors have felt the heat of the labour shortage, but the most serious one was in food sector,” Supant said.

The Thai economy has been highly dependent on migrant workers, particularly in sectors that rely on low-wage manual labour that Thais refuse to do. Before the pandemic, the country had around 3.2 million migrant workers, of whom 80% were from Myanmar and the rest from Cambodia and Laos.

But almost two years into the pandemic, the number has dropped by 27% to 2.3 million, causing a serious labour crunch in the food industry, according to the Ministry of Labour.



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