The forestry sector is in urgent need of restructuring in order to increase added value from wood processing and trade, and promote sustainable forest development, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat has said.

According to the Minister, the processing and trade of forest products are considered a force behind the sector’s development.

He said that the production of forest products for the domestic market and exports along with the State’s policies for the sector play an important role in determining the structure of key plants, thus improving the value of products and developing sustainable forests.

The restructuring needs to be carried out comprehensively in the coming time, Minister Phat said, adding that the move should go together with the implementation of the Forestry Development Strategies and the Forest Protection and Development Programme for the 2011 - 2020 period that were approved by the Prime Minister.

In addition, it must also be associated with socio-economic development and environment protection, and the forest planning for production must benefit planters, the minister noted.

According to a report from the General Department of Forestry (GDF) under the MARD, the trade of timber and wooden furniture in the domestic and foreign markets is growing, facilitating Vietnam’s wood product exports as well as expanding markets and creating a force for forest development in the country, especially in planted forests.

Since 2000, the wood processing industry has seen strong development, seeing high growth in its annual production value - between 41 and 42 percent in the 2005-2010 period.

The value of wood product exports reached 4.6 billion USD in 2012, making the sector one of the five industries with the highest national export turnover.

The wood processing industry directly employs about 500,000 workers. It indirectly creates jobs and raises the income for a huge number of labourers.

The market for exported wood products was also enlarged. Vietnam now exports wood products to over 100 countries and territories around the world, focusing on three key markets - the US (accounting for 36.3 percent), the European Union (almost 15.4 percent) and Japan (15.1 percent).

GDF Deputy Director Nguyen Ngoc Binh said though it has much potential for development, forest product processing and trade have not had the desired effect due to the lack of planning for forest development and production depends on imported material sources.

In particular, there is an imbalance between processing and forest protection and planting. Therefore, Vietnam’s forest products must still be exported to foreign markets through an intermediary party, thus there are very few Vietnamese branded products available in international markets.

The sector is set to produce 2.8 million cubic metres of woodwork per year for the domestic market and 5 million cubic metres for export by 2020. The country plans to gradually increase the use of domestic timber material while reducing wood imports from 10.2 million cubic metres in 2015 to 8.2 million in 2020.

It will also attach importance to planning and building processing factories with priority given to mountainous and remote areas, where they have enough materials, in order to create jobs and increase local people’s income, while developing supporting services.

The sector also needs to ensure coverage density of planted forest reaches 3.8 million hectares by 2020, while enhancing forest quality in order to reap 80 percent of commercial wood.

The GDF is developing a system to control the origin of wood to meet tightening market requirements driven by the Lacey Act of the US and FLEGT of the EU. It is also a chance for Vietnam’s wood furniture to penetrate foreign markets.-VNA