THAI LEATHERGOODS exports have slipped for the third consecutive year, as manufacturers of international brands of leathergoods move away from the country to tap cheaper labour costs in China.

Exports are expected to fall below last year’s total value of Baht 70 billion (US$1.6 billion), according to the Thai Leather Goods Association, which said that the SARS virus and the Iraq war had further added pressure to the market.

The association calculates that overseas shipments of leather bags have dropped by up to 50% to Baht 10 billion (US$230 million), while the overall export value of leather bags had dropped by 30%.

Kongjeth Promnumpol, the association’s manager, said that SARS had disrupted the industry’s sales strategy by causing the cancellation of several regional trade fairs.

To shore up shrinking exports, the Thai Leather Goods Association has joined with the Export Promotion Department to conduct roadshows with representatives from eight leathergoods brands to the Philippines and Japan.