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Domestic lumber supply doesn't cut it

Update: October, 24/2012 - 10:54

Xuan Huong

HCM CITY — Timber imports are on the rise in Viet Nam as local supply has not met demand, according to Huynh Van Hanh, deputy chairman of the Handicrafts and Wood Industry Association of HCM City (Hawa).

In the first nine months of the year, the country spent US$779 million to import 2.36 million cubic metres of timber, mainly from Laos, the US, China, Malaysia, Cameroon, Thailand, New Zealand, Chile, Myanmar and Cambodia, with Laos and the US the two main suppliers.

Hanh spoke at a conference held yesterday in HCM City organised by the International Technical Tropical Timber Association, Hawa and the German International Development Corporation.

The event provided local buyers with a chance to meet suppliers of legal timber sources from different countries.

The local wood processing industry has enjoyed strong growth over the past decade, with export value from finished timber products increasing every year, from $1.9 billion in 2006 to $3.9 billion last year.

However, along with the increase in export value, revenue from timber imports from other countries has also increased year-by-year, from $667 million in 2007 to $1.2 billion last year, despite the creation of large areas of plantation forests.

Plantation forest and natural forests provided about 12.3 million cubic metres of timber a year, but more than half was small wood for paper, pulp and artificial board production.

Thus, local timber for furniture exports satisfied only about 20 per cent of demand.

Experts said the country had to import 4 million cubic metres of timber a year in service for export.

Hanh said demand for timber was expected to top 20 million cubic metres by 2020, but local supply would probably remain at the current figure.

As a result, Viet Nam would need to import about 8 million cubic metres of timber by 2020 since local supply would be insufficient, he said.

Tran Quoc Manh, co-deputy chairman of Hawa, said local wood-processing firms were paying more attention to importing and using timber from legal sources to meet the strict requirements set by importing countries, such as the US and EU.

The country earned $3.4 billion from exported wooden products in the first nine months of the year, a year-on-year increase of 19.4 per cent. Exports are forecasted to reach $4.6 billion this year.

Currently, Viet Nam exports wooden products to 120 countries, with the US, EU and Japan the main import markets. — VNS

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