On October 8-9, 2009, 30 officials from the international cooperation, wood processing, forest protection, and management and planning departments of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), the customs department of the Ministry of Finance, and the Environmental Police of the Ministry of Public Security, together with representatives from the US Embassy, companies, business associations and NGOs, met in Nam Dinh to discuss the challenges Vietnam’s wooden furniture exporters face in complying with new laws seeking to keep wood products made from illegal timber out of major international markets.
In 2008, Vietnam exported US$2.8 billion of wooden furniture and other wood products, up from US$2.4 billion in 2007 and US$560 million in 2003. This phenomenal growth, coupled with domestic supply restrictions, has driven an equally rapid rise in Vietnam's timber imports, which supply 80% of the furniture industry's timber demand. In 2008, 63% by value of Vietnam’s furniture exports went to the US and EU. However, changes in these markets in response to growing demand for legal wood products from governments, retailers, and consumers are putting pressure on Vietnamese exporters and creating uncertainty about future market access.
The Nam Dinh workshop was co-organized by IUCN, MARD, and the Vietnam Timber and Forest Product Association (VIFORES), which represents 151 timber and wood processing companies. It was the third in a series of meetings convened by IUCN over the past 18 months as part of a multi-stakeholder process, involving government, business, and civil society, to help Vietnam understand and respond to new market requirements. The workshop targeted government officials responsible for supporting industry efforts to comply with these requirements and thereby ensure continued access to major export markets.
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