Rising rates of Covid-19 infections across South East Asia are threatening fresh disruption to global supply chains
Soaring numbers of cases of the highly infectious Delta variant across the region prompted Japan's largest automaker, Toyota Motor, to suspend operations at some of its plants in Thailand and Japan.
The automaker halted production in Thailand after business lockdowns in various provinces caused local suppliers to stop making parts.
Toyota has said it closed operations at three assembly plants near Bangkok, and last week Toyota Auto Body partially suspended production at its plant in central Japan for five days due to knock-on effects through its supply chain.
The company's Thailand factories can produce around 750,000 passenger cars and commercial vehicles a year.
Thailand has been reporting more than 10,000 Covid cases a day – its worst figures since the outbreak of the pandemic began last year – and last week threatened to stop exporting vaccines as it struggled to inoculate its population.
A previous outbreak in Vietnam that disrupted auto parts production also forced Toyota Auto Body to suspend an assembly line at its plant in central Japan for five days.
While South East Asian countries including Singapore have shown improved pandemic management, several countries are still struggling to vaccinate their populations.
By mid-July, Singapore had fully vaccinated 40.47% of its population, while comparable figures in Vietnam sat at 11.38%, compared to around 5% for Indonesia and Thailand.
Thai fruit exporter Siam Agro-Food Industry has been forced to leave fruit unpicked as it was able to find 400 of the 550 workers it needed due to border closures limiting access to immigrant labour, Reuters reported.
"There are 350 tonnes of fruit per day but now we can take only 250 tonnes because we do not have enough workers," said president of Siam Agro-Food Industry, Ghanyapad Tantipipatpong.
"There is strong demand from export markets, such as the US, our main market. The problem now is with the production.
In June and July, lockdown restrictions in Malaysia, the world’s leading rubber glove producer, forced many glove makers to suspend operations.
Also in July, a surge in Covid cases in Vietnam threatened Nike’s global supply chain. Health officials closed the largest trainer factory in the world, which produces footwear for Nike and Adidas as well as some other Western brands. Almost half of Nike’s trainers are produced in Vietnam.