Despite policymakers removing regulations to allow ethanol producers to make alcohol for hand sanitisers, disinfecting alcohol still remains in short supply at many convenience stores and pharmacies.
Ethanol is purified alcohol at 99.8-99.9% made from cassava or sugar residue that is blended with unleaded gasoline to make gasohol, a fuel used in the transport sector.
The domestic alcohol industry encompasses four sectors (food and beverage, industry, medical and transport) and is subject to strict regulatory controls.
Sirivuth Siamphakdee, honorary advisory to the Thai Ethanol Manufacturer Association (TEMA), said rising demand for alcohol in the cosmetics sector over the past two years is partly to blame for the shortages.
Since the virus outbreak, demand for disinfecting alcohol in the medical sector across the world rose considerably, making it difficult to import alcohol to keep up with local demand.
Mr Sirivuth said normally ethanol makers have long-term purchase contracts with oil traders and refineries that would be a priority, but because the virus outbreak has shut down land and air transport considerably, the ethanol was not needed.
Although diluting the alcohol content of ethanol to make sanitiser involves a light production cost, producers can bear the costs, he said.
The medical alcohol produced from ethanol will need an approval licence from the Excise Department through delivery, and each shipment cannot exceed 5,000 litres.
Buyers of alcohol for general trade or for donation to hospitals must also have approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Even with the extra alcohol, Mr Sirivuth said the nation faces a shortage of plastic tubes and bottles used to hold hand sanitiser.
The containers are normally imported from China, which closed all traffic a month ago.
He said there is speculation that some of the shortage is because of alcohol hoarding, although the government is serious about cracking down on illegal trade.