Vietnam's wood exports reached 479 million USD in December last year, bringing the year's timber turnover to 5.37 billion USD.

The figure represent a surge of 15.2 percent against 2012, announced the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD).

The US, China, Japan and the Republic of Korea remained the country's leading importers, MARD noted.

The domestic wood-processing industry has enjoyed strong growth over the past 10 years, with export value increasing at an average of 15.5 percent each year. It had earned 4.6 billion USD from exports last year, representing a year-on-year rise of 18 percent.

Despite the increasing export turnover, the industry has still encountered several challenges, with heavy dependence on imported raw materials being one of the most significant, said MARD's Forestry Department deputy director Nguyen Ba Ngai.

The local resources of raw materials have failed to meet the demand from wood processors both in volume and quality. Thus, they had to import materials from overseas, with an average import growth of 12.1 percent during the 2007-12 period, he stated.

In 2013, these firms imported 1.68 billion USD worth of wood and wooden products, a year-on-year rise of 24 percent from major markets including Laos, the US and China.

Ensuring the supply of raw timber was the sector's top priority, according to the Vietnam Wood and Forestry Product Association's general secretary, Nguyen Ton Quyen.

Under the national development strategy for the forestry industry, by 2020, the sector will be able to meet domestic demand for wood as well as for exports.

This means that until 2020, local producers will continue to import raw materials for export processing, often at high prices, he explained.

"So they must seek solutions to increase their competitive capacity against wood product producers from other countries," Quyen said.-VNA