Thailand's exports rose for a second straight month in May, with a much faster annual pace than analysts' expectations, data showed on Friday, and the commerce ministry said they should continue to rise this year.

Customs-cleared exports increased 7.2% in May from a year earlier, according to official data, the highest rate in four months, beating a forecast for a 1.89% increase in a Reuters poll, and against April's 6.8% increase.

Exports, a key driver of Southeast Asia's second-largest economy, jumped 12.6% from April.

"A significant driving force behind this expansion was the export of agricultural products, as this period saw a substantial market influx of these goods. Simultaneously, the global manufacturing sector showed strong recovery," the ministry said in a statement.

Geopolitics, however, had an impact on freight rates and trade, Poonpong Naiyanapakorn, head of the ministry's Trade Policy and Strategy Office, told a press conference, adding that the outlook remained positive.

Exports are expected to mark single-digit growth in June, he said, adding the ministry maintained its export growth target of 1% to 2% this year, after a fall of 1% in 2023.

In the first five months of 2024, annual exports rose 2.6%.

In May, exports of agricultural products surged 36.5% year-on-year, while industrial product shipments rose 4.6%.

However, rice export volumes dropped 22.5% year-on-year to 659,566 metric tons and in value terms fell 4.5%.

Thailand, the world's second-largest shipper of the grain after India, earlier said rice exports may reach 8 million metric tons this year.

Shipments to the United States rose 9.1% in May from a year earlier, while exports to China surged 31.2 % but to Japan dropped 1%.

Thailand's imports fell 1.7% in May from a year earlier, against a fall of 0.47% forecast in the poll.

Thailand recorded a trade surplus of $0.66 billion in May, compared with a forecast deficit of $0.84 billion. (Reporting by Orathai Sriring, Kitiphong Thaichareon, Chayut Setboonsarng and Thanadech Staporncharnchai; Editing by Ed Davies and Susan Fenton)