Wood products businesses should boost exports to Canada, a potentially lucrative market, a recent seminar held in HCM City heard.

Nguyen Thanh Xuan, deputy director of the city-based Investment and Trade Promotion Centre (ITPC) said Canada is a huge market with large demand for wood products and furniture.

It is the world's fifth largest importer of wooden furniture and its imports are growing at 2 percent annually, she said.

Thanks to their improvement in quality and design and reasonable prices, Vietnamese wood products are attracting increasing interest in Canada, especially items requiring high quality, she said.

Robert Mackinnon of the Trade Facilitation Office Canada (TFO), who is leading a delegation of six Canadian buyers to Vietnam, said Canada i
s a major importer and exporter, even during the ongoing economic crisis.

Last year Vietnam was the top exporter of furniture products to Canada among ASEAN members, he said.

Tran Quoc Manh, deputy chairman of the Handicraft and Wood Association of HCM City (HAWA), said: "It is the right time to boost exports to the Canadian market since [its] potential is no less than the US'."

Though Vietnamese export of wooden products to Canada has increased in recent years, it remains low compared to the market's total demand, he said.

Canada has high demand for indoor furniture made of hard wood like white oak and red oak and soft wood like pine, he said.

Customers there prefer environmentally friendly products, he said.

Mackinnon said two-way communication between buyers and sellers is very important, meaning Vietnamese suppliers should know English.

Suppliers should keep buyers informed of problems such as late delivery and deal with problems like damage during shipment, he said.

"Product development is very important because buyers do not buy the same thing forever but are always looking for new products," he said.

In addition, companies should pay close attention to packaging and enclosing certificates involved in the production and other processes, he said.

Huynh Van Hanh, also the HAWA vice chairman said exports of wood products to Canada was worth 84.9 million USD last year compared to 54.6 million USD in 2009.

It was 56.1 million USD in the first eight months of this year.

In the first nine months overall wood products export topped 2.8 billion USD, an increase of 16.3 percent year-on-year, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Export for the whole year is expected to be 3.8 billion USD.

HAWA, ITPC, and TFO Canada, in collaboration with the Vietnamese Trade Office in Canada, invited the Canadian buyer delegation to Vietnam to directly meet Vietnamese furniture and handicrafts makers and explore buying opportunities.

Besides attending the seminar, the visitors also held business meetings and visited factories./.