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UPDATE 1-Thai exports seen up 6% to 8% this year - shippers

(Adds detail, baht from paragraph 2 onwards)

BANGKOK, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Thailand's exports are expected to rise between 6% to 8% this year, compared with a previous forecast for a 5% to 8% increase, helped by a weak baht and increased global food demand, the national shippers group said on Tuesday.

Exports, a key driver of growth, rose 12.7% in the first half of 2022 from a year ago and the momentum should continue into the second half, Chaichan Chareonsuk, chairman of the Thai National Shippers' Council, told a news conference.

However, shipments might increase 10% this year if a shortage of semiconductors is resolved, he said, adding the issue had dragged down car exports.

In the January-June period, exports of food and agricultural products increased a yearly 17%, while shipments of cars and car parts dropped 6%, Chaichan said.

Rice exports surged a yearly 68% in the first half of 2022 amid global food security, he said. Rice shipments might reach 7.5 million tonnes this year, more than a previous forecast of 7 million tonnes, he added.

Export competitiveness is also helped by the Thai baht that was at its weakest level in more than 15 years late last month, he said.

The group urged the central bank to gradually hike interest rates as the country's economic recovery remains fragile, Chaichan said.

The Bank of Thailand is expected to start raising its key rate from a record low of 0.5% next week to contain inflation.

(Reporting by Orathai Sriring and Satawasin Staporncharnchai Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor)

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