Workers at a furniture processing plant in Binh Duong province (Photo: VNA)

HCM City (VNS/VNA) - Export turnover of wood and wooden products reached nearly 3.12 billion USD in the first four months of the year, a year-on-year increase of 18.3 percent, according to the General Department of Vietnam Customs.

The 10 largest import markets were the US, Japan, China, the Republic of Korea, the UK, Germany, Canada, Australia, France and the Netherlands.

Exports to some market increased strongly compared to the same period last year. Exports to Austria were up by 181.6 percent to reach 706,000 USD; Portugal up by 56.3 percent to 1.84 million USD; Mexico up by 53.4 percent to 4.9 million USD; Saudi Arabia up by 43 percent to 12.42 million USD; and the US up by 34.7 percent to 1.41 billion USD, the department said.

But exports to some markets fell significantly, such as Turkey, down by 81.5 percent, reaching 1.1 million USD; Cambodia down by 49.6 percent, to 1.92 million USD; Hong Kong down by 45.9 percent, to 1.32 million USD; and Finland down by 41 percent, to 480,000 USD.

The strong rise in demand from Vietnam’s key import markets such as the US and Japan increased export revenue in the period, the department said.

In addition, the improvement of the domestic business and investment environment helped boost manufacturing and export activities of enterprises involved in the wood processing industry.

The General Department of Vietnam Customs forecasts that the country’s wood and wooden products exports in the first half of 2019 will increase by 16-18 percent over the same period in 2018, given that many wood processing firms have export orders until the end of the year.

According to the Handicraft and Wood Industry Association of HCM City (Hawa), last year the revenue from wood and wooden products reached nearly 9.4 billion USD, accounting for over 23 percent of the agriculture sector’s total export turnover.

The wood processing sector also enjoyed a trade surplus of over 7 billion USD.

Hawa Chairman Nguyen Quoc Khanh quoted Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc as saying at a recent conference that Vietnam should become the world’s quality furniture production hub.

The global furniture market is worth nearly 200 billion USD a year, so there is still more room for the country to enhance exports, according to Khanh.

“The Government has set a target to achieve furniture export revenue of 20-30 billion USD in the next five to 10 years, and it is not an unrealistic target,” he said.

Khanh said domestic wood processing companies had overtaken foreign direct investment enterprises in terms of export revenue, and could compete fairly with foreign rivals to provide products to large corporations.

However, local wood enterprises were weak in design and distribution, with only 5 percent of the exported products designed locally.

The association over the years had organised activities to develop local furniture design teams and help local firms expand their distribution systems, he said.-VNS/VNA