by Xuan Huong
HCM CITY — The Government should develop support policies for forest owners to prevent harvesting of immature forest, speakers at a conference said on Friday in HCM City.
More than 200 policymakers and business executives attended the forum, organised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to discuss ways to develop the forest industry in a sustainable manner.
Viet Nam's forest areas have increased by 30 per cent in the 2006-10 period compared to the 1998-2005 period, according to Nguyen Ton Quyen, deputy chairman and general secretary of the Viet Nam Timber and Forest Product Association.
The timber volume from plantation forests has increased in recent years, from four million cubic metres in 2009 to 5.5 million cubic metres in 2010 and 6.5 million cubic metres last year.
The forest industry has also helped improve the incomes of the poor in many localities in recent years, but development has focused on quantity while quality and efficiency remains problematic.
Tran Duc Sinh, general director of Viet Nam Forest Company, said that the pace of growth in a number of forest plantations had not been sustainable.
Few linkages between forest planters and processors have forced more wood-processing enterprises to import a large amount of wood materials annually.
Forest-plantation households and enterprises as well as wood-processing companies are facing many difficulties, including a shortage of capital and land for forest cultivation, according to Quyen.
Attendees at the meeting agreed, saying that capital was the most significant obstacle to funding forest-plantation enterprises and households, as it would take up to 10 years or more to produce one crop.
Most planters cannot access preferential loans and have to borrow from commercial banks at high interest rates.
With limited capital and few skilled workers, households often plant small trees that cannot meet the demand of wood-processing companies.
Due to financial difficulties, households usually harvest their forests before they mature.
This kind of practice provides very low profits, with many of the households exporting wood chips to China, according to attendees at the conference.
One tonne of five-year-old trees sells for only VND600,000, but the value can increase up to four-fold if the trees are harvested in the 10th, 11th or 12th year of growth.
Many conference attendees said the Government should help small households access loans at a lower interest so that forest planters can plant big trees to provide raw-material sources for wood-processing companies.
Forest planters would continue to sell wood chips from immature trees as it does not require as much capital or skill as the sawing of mature trees, according to Huynh Van Hanh, deputy chairman of HCM City's Handicraft and Wood Industry Association.
To curb the number of sale of wood chips to China, Hanh and other meeting attendees said the Government should consider setting an export quota for wood chips and impose export taxes on products.
However, some attendees did not agree, saying that such a move at this time would harm farmers who depend on the sale of wood chips.
Participants also suggested that the Government map out specific zoning plans for forest-plantation areas.
Diep Kinh Tan, deputy minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, called on forest growing households, forestry farms and wood-processing companies to co-operate to raise the competitiveness of the forestry and wood-processing industry.
He also suggested that research institutes develop new high-quality seedlings and teach forest owners planting techniques so they can improve efficiency. — VNS