Forestry sector climbs sharply in first half

Vietnam's forestry sector grew by 8.3 percent in the first six months of this year, its highest-ever growth rate for a half-year period.
Vietnam's forestry sector grew by 8.3 percent in the first six months of this year, its highest-ever growth rate for a half-year period.

The sector is expected to grow by 9 to 10 percent over the course of the full year, according to a conference held in Hanoi on July 3 on the sector's restructuring efforts, which started two years ago.

Nguyen Ba Ngai, General Director of the Vietnam Administration of Forestry under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the restructuring efforts helped rake in an average growth rate of 6.57 percent per year in 2013 and 2014, compared with the average of 5.03 percent from 2010 to 2012.

A wood chip export turnover of 2.7 billion USD contributed to the sector's recent high growth rate, and showed an increase of 8 percent over the first half of 2014, said Ngai. The percentage of finely-processed wood chips accounted for up to 85 percent of the export volume, he stressed.

Still, Nguyen Ton Quyen, Vice President and General Secretary of the Vietnam Wood and Forest Product Association, said the wood processing industry was unlikely to achieve the target of $7 billion in wood exports set for this year, because of the euro's depreciation in export markets and rising electricity, petrol and oil prices.

Over the last two years the sector had planted more than 200,000ha of forest, 90 percent of which were production forests.

In Vietnam, forests are classified by function. The categories are special use, protective and production.

The conference was also told that during the sector's restructuring, it had found 57 individuals or companies that were good models for positive, profitable forest economy practices.

All of these individuals and firms earn at least 100 million VND (5,000 USD) per hectare of forest per year. They are mostly forest plantations specialising in big trees.

Le Thien Phuong's forest-farming household is one example. This war veteran in Yen Bai province has a 30-ha forest on which he grows Acacia and free-range animals in the forest. Last year, his family made 480 million VND (24,000 USD) cutting trees and 250 million VND (12,500 USD) selling livestock.

Phuong said if the State allows banks to extend the term of soft loans, which are lent for a repayment period of three to five years, farmers will keep trees standing longer.

"A tree cut at the age of five can get a price only half of what it costs if kept until the age of 10. But people need money to repay the bank loans, so they are forced to cut their trees earlier than they'd like," Phuong said.

Despite the rosy figures, Ha Cong Tuan, vice agriculture minister, said many forested provinces had not started restructuring.

He ordered them to ready their forestry restructuring plans before the start of the fourth quarter this year. They were also told to act quickly to introduce good practices from other areas to their provinces and encourage local businesses to join hands with farmers to develop planted forests.

Vietnam has been recognised as one of the 21 Asia-Pacific countries with quickly growing forest cover.-VNA

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