Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Ha Cong Tuan (Source: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – The United States (US) is a leading important market of the Vietnamese wood processing industry, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Ha Cong Tuan affirmed at the Southeast Asia Convention held by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) in Hanoi on June 25.

Last year, the country’s exports of wood and forest products reached 9.4 billion USD, about 42 percent of which came from the US. In the first five months of this year, the US remained the most important market accounting for 45 percent of Vietnam’s total export turnover of wood and wood products, up 34 percent year-on-year, he stated.

Tuan said Vietnam also imported large quantities of timber and wood products from the US. It is currently the top destination for US hardwood in Southeast Asia.

During January-May, the country imported 138 million USD of timber and forest products from the US, an increase of 24.9 percent compared to the same period in 2018.

The deputy minister affirmed that Vietnam has been moving towards building a sustainable wood processing industry that uses legal materials in accordance with international and Vietnamese law as well as regulations of major export markets like the US, the EU and Japan.

According to Nguyen Ton Quyen, Deputy Chairman of the Vietnam Timber and Forest Product Association, the US has one of the largest forest areas in the world, with output of more than 300 million cu.m per year. US wood is guaranteed to be of traceable, legal origins and good quality, and also has competitive prices.

“With these advantages and over 20 commercial timber species, American wood is always the first choice for Vietnamese importers,” Quyen said, adding that Vietnam has signed many free trade agreements, in which it commits to processing only legal timber.

Robert Hanson, Head of the Foreign Agricultural Service of the US Embassy in Vietnam, said Vietnam has accounted for 77 percent of the US’s wood exports to Southeast Asia.

Hanson stated the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade Voluntary Partnership Agreement (FLEGT-VPA) between Vietnam and the European Union has taken effect to ensure the legality and sustainability of Vietnamese wood products. Under the agreement, Vietnam will give priority to importing wood materials from sustainable and legal sources.

Quyen said that Vietnam’s forest product processing industry has rapidly and stably developed in recent years, not only meeting domestic demand for wood products but also moving towards sustainable exports.

There are now 5,000 enterprises involved in the production and processing of wood products (excluding households and small businesses), about 1,800 more than there were five years ago.

Vietnam has halted the exploitation of natural forests for three years and has been pushing forestation. The 3.5 million hectares planted for future exploitation will provide about 35 to 40 million cu.m of timber in the next five to 10 years.

The Vietnamese Government set a target for the forest products sector to reach 11 billion USD in exports this year. To help, the Government has committed to creating good conditions for businesses, including domestic and foreign invested enterprises.

At the conference, the organisers explained the classification system for US wood to designers, processors and importers. The conference also served as a chance for Vietnamese and US businesses to explore future cooperation opportunities.-VNA