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Southern Thai Storms Ease as Flooding Death Toll Climbs to 21

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April 1 (Bloomberg) -- Storms in southern Thailand eased today as the death toll from flooding climbed to 21 and rubber producers said losses may be double a previous estimate.

“We expect less and less rain,” government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said by phone today. The humanitarian situation is “under control,” he said.

The deaths occurred in storms across eight southern provinces since March 22 that forced airlines to cancel flights to tourist destinations. The floods may cost the economy as much as 15 billion baht ($494 million), the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce said March 30.

Thai rubber output will probably fall by 50,000 metric tons because of flooding, up from a previous estimate of 20,000 tons, Luckchai Kittipol, president of the Thai Rubber Association, said by phone today. Exports may be delayed as workers can’t travel to plants, some of which were damaged by water, he said.

“Customers will understand because this is natural disaster,” he said. “We can’t do anything about it. We have to help people now and deal with business later.”

The loss forecast of 50,000 tons is equivalent to 1.5 percent of the nation’s output last year, which was estimated at 3.25 million tons by the Kuala Lumpur-based Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries. Thai production this year may be 3.43 million tons, the group said in a March report.

Rubber Futures

Rubber futures in Tokyo declined for the first time in four days, losing 0.6 percent to 429.5 yen a kilogram ($5,146 a metric ton) as of 9:56 a.m. local time.

Damage wouldn’t exceed more than 50,000 rai (8,000 hectares) because the plantations can withstand flooding if the water recedes quickly, the Department of Disaster Prevention & Mitigation said on its website. That’s equivalent to less than 1 percent of Thai rubber estates, according to data from the Office of Agricultural Economics.

Shrimp exports may also be damaged because this is the peak season for output, Nantawan Sakuntanak, director-general of the Department of Export Promotion, told reporters yesterday. That may lead to shortages in domestic consumption as well, she said.

The government is assessing the impact on palm oil and fruit, she said.

“Some plants may have to shut down from the severe flooding and only half of the workers can come to work now,” Nantawan said. “The raw materials may be spoiled. There may be also delays in raw material shipments.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel Ten Kate in Bangkok at dtenkate@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net

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