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Vietnam wood products exporters face new hurdles   2010-04-01 - SBSC/Tuoi tre

Vietnamese wooden products exporters have to comply with the US’ Lacey Act, a new timber origin tracking system, from April.


Companies exporting products made from timber will have to provide documents to prove the wood was logged legally.

This means either an import declaration containing the timber’s scientific name and quantity, import value, and country of origin, or a certificate from the non-profit organization Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

Companies found selling products made from illegally sourced timber face severe penalties, including confiscation of goods, a possible five-year jail term, and a heavy fine of up to US$500,000 for corporations and $250,000 for individuals.

In the EU, the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) act, which seeks to tackle illegal logging and poor forest governance, will take effect in January 2012.

These laws could leave Vietnamese businesses foundering since there are no instructions yet from the government, Thoi Bao Kinh Te Viet Nam (Vietnam Economic Times) quoted Nguyen Ton Quyen, chairman of the Vietnam Timber and Forest Products Association (Vifores), as saying.

It is not clear if a state agency or a non-governmental organization will be responsible for inspecting and certifying timber.

Many members of the Wood Industry Association of Ho Chi Minh City (HAWA) are unclear about the Lacey Act since US authorities have not announced specific procedures for them to follow, Dang Quoc Hung, HAWA’s vice chairman told The Saigon Economic Times Online.

To help local industry conform to the EU’s new import regulations, the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development and the European Commission have set up a joint working group on FLEGT.

The group’s mission is to train local manufacturers in legally buying wood and plant products and creating a control system for their trade, Pham Ngoc Mau, its coordinator, said.

Mau is in HCMC now to strengthen ties with HAWA and other wood industry associations to brief manufacturers and ensure they follow the regulations.

A major source of import for Vietnamese wood products makers is the American Hardwood Export Commission (AHEC) which says Vietnam is currently its leading hardwood importer with purchases of $90 million last year.

They are importing FSC-quality lumber, logs, and veneer to produce indoor and outdoor furniture, mainly for export.

The country exported $360 million worth wooden products, primarily to the US and the EU, in the first two months of this year, according to the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development.

Vifores said this year’s export target of $3 billion, half from wooden furniture, is within reach.

Many central- and south-based businesses signed export contracts for the whole year starting last December, Vifores said, with some even clinching deals for 2011.

Exports were worth $2.65 billion last year, slightly less then than the target of $2.8 billion due to the global economic slump.

The US was the biggest importer, accounting for $1 billion worth shipments, followed by the EU with $700 million and Japan with over $360 million.

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