The Vietnamese export turnover of wood and wooden products reached nearly $3.12 billion in the first four months of the year, a year-on-year increase of 18.3 per cent, according to the General Department of Customs.

The 10 largest import markets were the US, Japan, China, South Korea, the UK, Germany, Canada, Australia, France and the Netherlands.

Exports to some markets increased strongly compared to the same period last year. Exports to Austria were up by 181.6 per cent to $706,081, Portugal up by 56.3 per cent to $1.84 million, Mexico up by 53.4 per cent to $4.9 million, Saudi Arabia up by 43 per cent to $12.42 million, and the US up by 34.6 per cent to $1.42 billion, the department said.

But exports to some markets fell significantly, such as Turkey, down by 81.5 per cent to $1.1 million, Cambodia down by 49.6 per cent to $1.92 million, Hong Kong down by 45.9 per cent to $1.32 million, and Finland down by 41 per cent to $0.48 million.

The strong rise in demand from Vietnam’s key import markets such as the US and Japan increased export revenue in the period, the department said.

In addition, the improvement of the domestic business and investment environment helped boost manufacturing and export activities of enterprises involved in the wood processing industry.

The General Department of Customs forecasts that Vietnam’s wood and wooden products exports in the first half of this year will increase by 16-18 per cent over the same period last year, given that many wood processing firms have export orders until the end of the year.

According to the Handicraft and Wood Industry Association of Ho Chi Minh City (Hawa), last year the revenue from wood and wooden products reached nearly $9.4 billion, accounting for over 23 per cent of the agriculture sector’s total export turnover.

The wood processing sector also enjoyed a trade surplus of over $7 billion.

Hawa chairman Nguyen Quoc Khanh quoted Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc as saying at a recent conference that Vietnam should become the world’s quality furniture production hub.

The global furniture market is worth nearly $200 billion a year, so there is still more room for the country to enhance exports, according to Khanh.

“The government has set a target to achieve furniture export revenue of $20-30 billion in the next five to 10 years, and it is not an unrealistic target,” he said.

Khanh said domestic wood processing companies had overtaken foreign direct investment enterprises in terms of export revenue, and could compete fairly with foreign rivals to provide products to large corporations.

However, local wood enterprises were weak in design and distribution, with only five per cent of the exported products designed locally.

The association over the years had organised activities to develop local furniture design teams and help local firms expand their distribution systems, he said. VIET NAM NEWS/ASIA NEWS NETWORK