After significant export growth of 33.3 percent in 2011, Vietnam expects this year to attain further growth for its major products, including textiles and garments, leather and footwear, wood products and seafood.

According to Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyen Thanh Bien, the country's total export turnover is expected to increase by 13 percent, from a total 96 billion USD in 2011 to 108.8 billion USD this year. However, challenges remain in the export sector, he added.

The country's textile and garment sector attained an export turnover of over 14 billion USD in 2011, enjoying a trade surplus of 6.5 billion USD.

Le Tien Truong, Deputy Chairman of Vietnam Textile and Garment Association and deputy general director of Vietnam Textile Corp. (Vinatex), explained that the healthy market forecasts and the confidence gained from customers were the main reasons behind the high export growth of textiles and garments last year.

However, to reach 15 billion USD export turnover for 2012 will not be an easy task for the country's textile and garment sector, as global economic woes still plague major markets such as the US, EU and Japan.

In addition, production costs, including prices of electricity, water, fuel, workers' salaries and bank loan interest, are all on the rise.

To maintain its leading position, textile and garment enterprises must choose markets and products carefully and become strategic partners with major material suppliers.

Leather and footwear sector

With export turnover of 6.5 billion USD last year, the leather and footwear sector ranks third on the list of the country's top 10 exports.

According to the Vietnam Leather and Footwear Association (Lefaso), the added value gained by the sector was more than 55 percent of last year's export turnover, a year-on-year increase of at least 5 percent.

Diep Thanh Kiet, deputy chairman of Lefaso, said a reduction in orders from European customers (due to global economic woes) remain the biggest concerns of local textile and garment exporters.

That is the reason why Lefaso has set out an export target of 7 billion USD for 2012. Kiệt said, at the same time, local exporters had also refused low-priced contracts to avoid inconveniences caused by anti-dumping lawsuits.

"However, I believe that local textile and garment enterprises can cope with difficulties in 2012 if they make wise decisions in choosing markets and specific products for them," Kiet told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.

Higher potential for seafood

Truong Đinh Hoe, general secretary of the Vietnam Seafood Processors and Exporters and Processors (VASEP), said 2011 was a very sucessful year for the country's seafood sector as it attained high export growth at a time when seafood enterprises faced difficulties.

Hoe said last year seafood enterprises had succesfully coped with challenges by attaining total export turnover of more than 6 billion USD, far exceeding the 5.7 billion USD goal set in early 2011.

Le Van Quang, general director of Minh Phú Seafood JSC and deputy chairman of VASEP, said there were opportunities for the seafood sector to reach a target of 6.3-6.5 billion USD export turnover set by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for 2012.

"It's not a very difficult goal to reach, provided that seafood companies maintain the volume of goods to be exported to traditional markets such as EU, the US and Japan, and establish new markets, including Russia and China," said Quang.

Higher quality rice

Vietnam earned more than 3.6 billion USD for over seven million tonnes of rice exported in 2011. According to the Vietnam Food Association (VFA), 2011 was a robust year for the country's agriculture as local farmers reaped bumper crops while rice prices soared in the market.

VFA said Vietnam rice faces harsh competition from Indian and Pakistani rice. To make Vietnamese rice more competitive, on December 21, VFA lowered the rice price with a floor price of 5 percent broken rice at 500 USD per tonne, nearly 100 USD per tonne lower than the price of the same rice sold in early November last year.

In December, VFA affirmed that in following years Vietnam will not focus on increasing volumes of export rice, but will concentrate its efforts on producing high-quality rice to get higher prices of export rice.

Thus, Vietnam will maintain its volume of export rice at six to seven million tonnes per year.

Wood products

Despite a total export turnover of 3.9 billion USD in 2011, Vietnamese wood processors are worried about the difficulties facing Vietnamese wood products in EU markets and the possibility of facing anti-dumping lawsuits in the US, according to Tran Quoc Mạnh, Deputy Chairman of HCM City Handicraft and Wood Industry Association (HAWA).

However, the local wood industry still has great potential for development if local wood processors can conquer new emerging markets such as the Republic of Korea , Japan and China .

To ease dependence on imported materials, Manh said local enterprises should use more local materials, especially cajeputs, which are cultivated in vast areas across the country.

"The volume of imported wood materials is expected to drop if the Government issues sound policies on afforestation, which will allow more resources for wood materials," said Manh./.