Vietnam has led Southeast Asia in exporting woodworks and become one of the top ten exporters of the product in the world -- the achievement that was attributable largely to its wood processing industry’s tireless efforts over the past 15 years.

Former Chairman of Ho Chi Minh City-based Handicrafts and Wood Industry Association (Hawa) Nguyen Chien Thang said by recording a two-digit growth rate consecutively in recent years, the local wood processing industry has beaten highly-competitive rivals from regional countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.

Each industry worker can earn 18,300 USD per year, exceedingly outperforming his peer in the footwear sector (13,900 USD) and in the seafood industry (8,900 USD).

The Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) confirmed that the industry is one of the country’s key foreign currency earners, pocketing 5.7 billion USD from shipments to around 120 countries and territories worldwide.

It has, however, in recent years, left the domestic market of over 90 million consumers, whose purchase is worth 21 USD a year each, for foreign or foreign invested companies, according to Hawa President Nguyen Quoc Khanh.

These foreign companies are reportedly making up 80 percent of the domestic market share.

Khanh estimated that local producers could earn around 2 billion USD annually from the local market if they are fully aware of the market’s purchasing power at a time when economic recovery is underway.

The association has, therefore, asked the Prime Minister to put forth policies facilitating the development of the segment as one of the economic spearheads, aiming to help the industry gross 20 billion USD in export earnings each year.

Hawa has also suggested increasing material forest coverage, calculating that some 3.4 million ha of material forests can supply 15 million cubic metres of logs annually, thus reducing imports of timber for production.

Director of the Light Industry Department under the Ministry of Industry and Trade Phan Chi Dung said it is necessary to devise master plans on investment, tax, credit access, and the establishment of wood processing industrial zones or a cluster of these zones, for the industry to advance further in the coming time.

In 2013, Vietnam earned 5.7 billion USD from selling wooden furniture abroad, a year-on-year rise of 19 percent. The country expects to rake in 6.5 billion USD and 10 billion USD by 2014 and 2020, respectively.-VNA