The government should speed up plans to position Thailand as a regional hub for the health and beauty business before losing the opportunity to other countries, according to Ketmanee Lertkitcha, president of the Thai Cosmetic Manufacturers' Association.
With advanced production technology and rich resources of herbal products, Thailand had a good chance to achieve its goal, she said.
However, China would pose a big challenge, as it was promoting Shanghai and Guangzhou as major centres for cosmetics manufacturing, she said.
To surpass China, Ms Ketmanee suggested the government cut taxes on raw materials quickly to help the local industry improve its competitiveness.
The Thai cosmetics industry had experienced 20 percent annual growth for the past three years, spurred mainly by the rising popularity of herbal cosmetics, she said.
Thailand has about 700 manufacturers of cosmetics, of which 30 have export reputations.
Deputy Commerce Minister Suvarn Valaisathien said that high import tariffs on raw materials, along with less attractive packaging, were the key impediments to more exports of Thai cosmetics.
Thailand's tax rates of 30-32 percent on selected chemicals were higher than those of Malaysia and the Philippines, which were also considering further reductions, he said.
The time-consuming registration process of the Food and Drug Administration was also an obstacle to the business, he said.
Dr Suvarn made the comments at the opening yesterday of the Thailand Health & Beauty Show, which will run until Sunday, with some 400 exhibitors at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre.
The Commerce Ministry said that exports of health-care and cosmetic products in the first half of this year were worth 9.7 billion baht, up 23 percent year-on-year. Toiletries and skin-care products accounted for two-thirds of the value. The country's major markets for the goods were Asean (53.7 percent), the European Union (7.5 percent), and Japan (5.6 percent).
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