The deputy head of the Viet Nam Administration of Forestry, Ha Cong Tuan, spoke to Viet Nam News about how to increase income for foresters and enhance the effectiveness of the industry.
How have foresters been helped to make a living?
Total revenue for forestry production hit VND3.8 billion (US$180,000) in the first half this year, an increase of 5.7 per cent compared to the same period last year.
Although the percentage of forest cover is increasing, 80 per cent of materials for the wood processing industry still have to be imported.
Forests cover 50 per cent of the country and 25 million people make a living from them, but they remain poor.
The major and long-term issue is to increase benefits for people from forests by enhancing the value of forestry products and increasing income from non-forest products such as bamboo, animals and minerals.
The implementation of payments for environmental services under Government Decree 99 has been of some help to foresters who are paid to manage forests. This year, we will be able to obtain VND1 trillion ($48 million) from forest environmental costs from the businesses.
The Government has also issued a pilot policy of co-management and benefit-sharing for special-use-forests. We will review the pilot programme in the next two years to come up with a complete policy to develop the sector.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is implementing a restructuring programme by increasing productivity, quality and value of forestry goods, helping the industry become an important part of the economy, while creating jobs and boosting incomes. Part of the programme is to shift from using young timber for wood-chip to old ones.
Many wood-chip factories have been built, however areas for planting raw material have received little investment, leading foresters to sell young timber. How does it affect the forest industry?
It's true that foresters harvest when their wood is very young, resulting in low value.
In 2011, 82 per cent of 11 million cubic metres of wood was exported as wood-chip. Viet Nam leads the world export market in wood-chip.
The country also imported $1.3 billion of raw wood materials for the wood processing industry last year. In the first half of this year, the import turnover of wood reached $714 million, up nearly 18 per cent against the same period last year.
Now, the country has to import 80 per cent of raw wood materials for the wood processing industry. Wood-chip exports could lead to a lack of raw wood materials for the industry.
Foresters lack capital and need quick harvests with a short cultivation time to get quick capital turnover, and to have money to pay bank debts.
In our forestry restructuring plan, we strive to reduce the proportion of exploitation of young trees, since wood-chip costs much less than aged timbers.
We're also asking the Government to help foresters to take out preferential loans so they can lengthen the cultivation time.
The forestry industry is trying to encourage workers to conform with forestry certification standards. What role can this play in the industry?
Forest certification on sustainable forest management is the final stage for international organisations to recognise that the forest has been managed sustainably. It is not easy to earn a certificate, because it has hundreds of technical standards which are very tight regarding the lives of people and environmental protection.
When foresters receive their certificates, their products go up in value, sometimes 30-50 per cent higher than uncertified products. It also helps to reduce the sale of illegal timber.
The forest certification process has been in place for many years, but few have been granted. What will the Government do to address this time?
There are about 40,000ha of certificated forests, of which 16ha belong to the Viet Nam Paper Corporation. All businesses said that it cost them a lot to obtain the document.
The ministry is trying to grant certificates with Vietnamese standards and join hands with organisations to help foresters obtain them.
We want 30 per cent of forests (about 2 million hectares) to have certificates by 2020. — VNS