|Workers check furniture products for export at a workshop in Quang Nam. All timber collected from log farms have Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certifications. — VNS Photo Cong Thanh
QUANG NAM (VNS) — Vo Van Vinh, a farmer in Dai Nghia Commune in the central Quang Nam Province's Dai Loc District, can earn VND400 million (US$18,000) from his 10ha farm of acacia every five years.
It's quite a good income and easy for him and family in comparison to rice farming or raising livestock.
Acacia farms have helped over 293 households in the commune earn a living and provided 40 per cent share of the annual budget.
However, a five-year-old acacia harvest is only used as material for paper production (pulpwood) – with the price half as much as eight-year-old acacia farms.
"I could double my income from my log farm if I extend harvest time to two more years. Eight-year-old acacia farms could sell at a higher price – 1.5 times more than the harvest of five-year-old acacia," Vinh said.
He said acacia harvested longer can be used for furniture production for export with better wood quality and prices ranging from VND1.7million ($76) to VND2 million per tonne," Vinh said, adding that wood for paper production costs only VND1 million.
"We often log after four or five years in avoiding risks from storm that often occur every five years in the central region. Loan deficiency from banks and package purchasing guarantees given by furniture producers are also the main reason that we have to log earlier," Vinh explained.
Vinh said he would log his acacia farms after five or eight years if he receives a prolonged commitment from furniture producers to buy logs and initial funding.
Rare farmers and timber processing businesses are able to reach international standards and regulations including timber quality, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, original certification on legal logging and land-use rights.
Meanwhile, FSC-certified logs have been increasing in Viet Nam due to demand of FSC certification in Europe – a major export market of Viet Nam.
In order to help businesses and the community in boosting plantation and production of illegal logs for export to European market, the Europe Union (EU) and Swedish International Development Co-operation (SIDA) has funded a project of common access to Voluntary Partnership Agreements VPA and Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) process in Viet Nam.
The project with a fund of over 1 million euros ($1.1 million) helps improve capacity for businesses and local farmers in Ha Noi, Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Thua Thien-Hue, Quang Nam, Kon Tum, Gia Lai, HCM City and Binh Dinh between 2014-18.
"Viet Nam has been in the process of negotiations with EU on Voluntary Partnership Agreements/Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (VPA/FLEGT)," said Nguyen Ngoc Thang, project manager from World Wide Fund for Nature-Viet Nam.
He said VPA/FLEGT is the EU response to illegal logging that includes a regulation that prohibits EU businesses from importing or trading illegal timber, and bilateral trade agreements with timber-exporting countries.
"Much of the FLEGT Action Plan focuses on promoting trade in legal timber products and creating disincentives for trade in illegal products. It's also a voluntary scheme to ensure that only legally harvested timber is imported into the EU from countries agreeing to take part in this scheme," Thang said.
He said from now on local timber exporters have to prove that the timber for furniture production must come from plantations, but not logging from nature forests.
He stressed all the strict regulations of FLEGT Action Plan aim to reduce illegal logging.
Dang Cong Quang, deputy director of forest products export joint-stock company of Quang Nam (Forexco), said his company had earned the Chain-of-Custody (COC) certification in 2007 after a 3-year process including sale, control and manufacture from pure log as well as transparent legal procedures by planters.
"Reaching the certification creates a more smooth condition and value for exporting to Europe, the US and Taiwan. We have built up a plantation area on 1,600ha with FSC-certified log in 2012 in Quang Nam Province and the central region," Quang said, adding that the company earns $10 million from furniture exports.
He said rare households in Quang Nam and the central region have recognised the importance of FSC-certified log for export.
"We only supply ourselves 50 per cent of input material, while the remaining logs come from the community's plantation farms. But it could hardly persuade local household to extend their harvests from five to eight years for qualified log," Quang said.
He said co-operation from businesses, farmers and local administration is necessary to provide financial and technical support on how to produce qualified logs for furniture production for export.
Truong Nhanh, chairman of Dai Nghia commune People's Committee, said log farms, which cover over 1,800ha – 57 per cent of the commune's area – create over 40 per cent of the community's budget.
He said the commune has granted land-use certificates for log farmers with 1,600ha who have reached the VPA/FLEGT standard.
"We hope that local farmers would improve income from the FSC-certification log farm, and help build up a key supplying zone for timber export," Nhanh said, adding that over 500 households in the commune – 20 per cent of total population – earn VND25 million ($1,100) each per year from acacia farming.
According to a report from the National Administration of Forestry of Viet Nam, FSC timber in Viet Nam currently fetches around 15-20 per cent more than non-certified wood – and by selling directly to factories as an association, rather than through traders.
Thang, from WWF, said over 200 businesses and hundreds of farmers would benefit from accessing VPA/FLEGT process. — VNS