The country's wood products exports are expected to again grow by at least 15 percent this year, according to the Handicrafts and Wood Industry Association of HCM City (Hawa).

Despite the bleak economic situation, the industry managed to achieve average export growth of 15 percent in the past seven years, Huynh Van Hanh, Hawa Deputy Chairman, told an industry function in Ho Chi Minh City this week.

Many furniture companies in the EU closed due to the crisis, and wood exporters in some countries faced dumping duties, giving Vietnam a window of opportunity to increase its exports to the continent, he said.

Besides focus on traditional markets like the US, Asia, and the EU, "we are suggesting that the industry should organise trade promotion programmes in the eastern European and Middle East markets where our wood products are still absent."

With exports of 6.23 billion USD last year Vietnam was among the 10 largest exporters in the world, but accounted for a mere 2.68 percent of global exports, and could increase its market share, he said.

Besides, with a population of more than 90 million, the domestic market too offered a great opportunity, he said.

Through three annual trade fairs to showcase furniture, home decor and handicrafts, the industry successfully appealed to domestic customers and property developers, with total sales increasing every year at the fairs, he said.

However, with the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community this year, it will face fierce competition in the domestic market, he warned.

Since most producers were small, they should join hands to improve their competitiveness and grow at home, he said.

They should also invest more in technology to improve productivity and product quality, he said.

Nguyen Quoc Khanh, Hawa Chairman, said this year the association will organise more seminars, fairs, training courses, and trade promotion programmes to help members strengthen their competitiveness and expand markets.

It will also continue to mobilise opinion to lobby the Government for effective policymaking, he added.

At the event, Hawa signed an agreement with the Binh Duong Furniture Association and Dong Nai Wood and Handicraft Association to join hands to develop the industry.-VNA