Achieving this year's export target of 5.3 billion USD as well as future targets would be difficult, leather footwear industry executives told a seminar held in HCM City on Monday.

Last year exports fell nearly 16 percent to 4 billion USD and the Government is hoping they will grow by 30 percent this year. But the industry is not hopeful.

Do Chi Tien, deputy director of Phu Lam Shoe Co, said it was too early in the economic recovery process to be sure to achieve such a high growth rate.

Nguyen Huu Thuan, chairman of the Vietnam Leather Shoe Association, said Vietnam was losing its price advantage over rivals like India, Thailand, and mainland China because it had to import 70 percent of the raw materials while wages were increasing.

Ngo Dai Quang, head of the Leather Shoe Research Institute, said the target had "no meaning" in the absence of strategies to achieve it.

Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyen Nam Hai said for the next 15 years the leather shoe sector would continue to mainly sub-contract.

To boost exports, he said, companies should pay attention to developing trademarks and distribution systems to directly reach consumers and improve design and marketing.

The leather shoe sector, which accounts for 10 percent of the country's total exports, provides jobs to more than 1 million labourers.

Quang warned the industry not to neglect the domestic market.

Many delegates said the domestic and export markets should be separated to achieve better results.

Vietnamese consumers buy around 130 million pairs of shoes which foreign products, worth 1 billion USD, accounting for more than 70 percent./.