The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development's Forestry Department deputy director Nguyen Ba Ngai spoke with Nong thon Ngay nay (Countryside Today) newspaper about restructuring the forestry sector.

* The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) has approved the forest sector restructuring project. Can you say something about the project's details?

The forest sector restructuring project will focus on four main areas, including restructuring three forest categories, among 16.24 million ha of forest and forestry land, following a directive that around 2 million hectares for special-use would be strictly protected. A part of the protected forest would be used as a production and business forest, while increasing the area of the production forest to 50 percent of the total forest area. The project also aims to improve the added value of the forestry production chain, processing and trading.

We will also focus efforts on restructuring forestry companies, including State-run forestry farms, such as State-run farms following the enterprise laws and state farms performing public benefits ordered by the State, such as special use and protective forest management.

This means that State forestry farms with weak management or operating at a loss must be dissolved. Management units of all forest categories will also be restructured. Additionally, forestry investment would be restructured following directives to reduce capital sources from the State and increasing fund from non-State sources. The State would focus on protecting 2.2 million ha of special-use forest and 50-60 percent of protective forest areas.

* What are breakthrough measures the forestry sector will do to assure that the project is successful?

The sector will review the scheme for the forestry system, including the forest master plan, the processing network, the management of forestry companies and all forest management units.

The Government has permitted the MARD and the forestry sector to carry out a national survey on forest resources, and the project has been carried out in two provinces of Bac Kan and Ha Tinh. Further, the project was implemented in 13 Central Highland provinces and 8 Mekong Delta provinces in 2013 and will be in the remaining provinces in the coming years.

In addition, we will restructure the processing network, review 148 forestry companies and 256 forest management units. Research will focus on seeds with high productivity. Each region will focus on planting one main crop that is compatible with the area's land and climate conditions. Some non-wood forest products are to be put into production, such as products extracted from oil, bamboo, pharmaceutical plants and food plants such as anise, cinnamon, and rattan.

* Values collected from forest and forest product processing haven't met their potentials yet. What measures would your advise for MARD and the Government to better tap the forest's potentials?

In fact, we are implementing a directive for reducing raw material processing and export and encouraging the establishment of foreign joint-venture processing networks. Applications of science and technology would be considered in efforts to increase the value of products.

The processing sector now seeks to minimise wood imports by using local products or materials through the support of a method on improving wood quality. The method that has been researched in Vietnam would be applied in production in an effort to lower the cost of products compared to imported ones.

In order to take full advantage of the forest's potential, three current forest categories would be exploited and managed in combination with each other. Protecting the forest may be undertaken as a function of production with specific sources of income. Production forests should be protected through the quality of land, ecological diversification and protection from erosion.

* It is the correct policy to hand over land and forests to people to manage. However, forest keepers do not seem to benefit much from their forests. What do you say about that fact and what sector could solve this problem?

There were two facts that made people lose their advantages when they received land from enterprises, including: Forestry enterprises handed over exhausted land areas in remote and mountainous areas or land with poor and low reserve forests. They also handed over forest lands to people without instructions, technical supports or training in trees, seeds and markets. This caused a situation of ineffectiveness and low productivity in production that made those receiving forests dissatisfied and leaving land uncultivated.

This was a shortcoming of enterprises and local professional organisations, as they did not pay timely attention to, or carry out measures for supporting people after they were given land.

In the coming years, we will ask forestry companies to develop programmes on land quality assessments and proposing measures for supporting local people.-VNA