|Woodworkers in La Xuyen Village in Nam Dinh Province are struggling to survive in a moribund by To Nhumarket, made worse by a shortage of timber. — VNA/VNS Photo Dinh Hue
by To Nhu
NAM DINH (VNS) — Wooden furniture makers in northern Nam Dinh Province's La Xuyen Village are struggling to survive in a market downturn, a world-wide crackdown on illegal logging and a shortage of skilled workers.
The furniture village in Y Yen District, about 70km from the south of Ha Noi, once prospered from its carved furniture and other work, evidenced by the number of multi-storey houses and workshops in the village.
Village Trade Group chairman Pham Ngoc Tuan said the village had 27 enterprises which could earn from VND3 billion (US$144,000) a year for a small business to VND30 billion ($1.44 million) for a big business.
Ninh Duy Nhat, director of Hong Gia Company which employed 50 regular workers, 200 seasonal workers, and outsourcing manufacture to 20 local households, said that last year, the company operated below its capacity because of sharply reduced orders.
The economic slowdown had slowed the market, resulting in a halving of production.
Tighter legislation regarding timber imports was also leading to demands by major customers for legal proof of origin as a way to curb illegal logging. Up to 80 per cent of the timber was imported, mostly from Lao, Thailand, Cambodia and India.
The importers of finished products, including the U.S., EU and Australia, had regulations against illegal logging, for example the US Lacey Code 2010, EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade 2013 and Australia illegal logging ban to take effect next year.
Speaking at a workshop held here last week about challenges for wood trade, EU Forest Law Enforcement representative Tim Dawson said the illegal logging was a global problem with trade worth $30-100 billion a year.
However, regulations were difficult to enforce because of the lack of co-ordination among countries to control the flow of timber.
The workshop was co-organised by the Viet Nam Timber and Forest Production Association and Forest Trends.
An expert from Viet Nam's Forest Trend To Xuan Phuc said that Viet Nam was also making efforts to set up a Timber Legality Assurance System to ensure products were made from legally harvested timber.
The system would affect carpentry villages, like La Xuyen, he said, urging an impact report be produced on the village's timber consumption and production.
Meanwhile, Duong Van Hien, director of La Xuyen Vang Joint Stocks Company, said it was also difficult to get young workers, despite the wage of VND8 million ($384) a month for a skilled woodworker.
"They prefer to go to university and then get a job in the city," he said.
Job training was not given proper attention either. New apprentices now trained for six months instead of three years, he said. — VNS