Speaking at a recent seminar on the Government's forest development strategy for the next 10 years in Ho Chi Minh City, Bien said the country would work to improve the quality and production capacity at planted forests and in natural forests.
The goal is to plant an additional 731,000 ha of forest in the 2011-15 period, and replant 100,000-200,000 hectares of forest annually until 2020.
Currently, the average timber volume of natural forest is 76.5 cubic metres per hectare, and for planted forest 40.6 cubic metres per hectare, much lower compared to other countries, he said.
The forestry sector will also implement measures to manage forests in a sustainable manner and co-operate with businesses, organisations and forest owners so that more forests will receive official certificates.
But, Nguyen Chien Thang, chairman of the Handicrafts and Wood Industry Association of HCM City, and many other seminar attendees said the tasks would be difficult to be carried out because of the country's scattered forest land.
This was caused by the Government's former practice of allocating 5-10ha of forest land to each household, Thang said.
Vietnam's forest area increased from 11.31 million hectares in 2000 to 12.87 million hectares in 2006 and 13.12 million hectare in 2009, with the forest coverage increasing annually by 0.4 per cent.
The country's forests have a timber volume of 813.3 million cubic metres (94 per cent of which is natural forest and 6 per cent, planted forest) and around 8.5 billion bamboo plants.
Timber is found mainly in the Central Highlands, and north central and south central areas.
Between 1998 and 2010, localities nationwide planted about 1.55 million hectares of forest, mainly in the northern mountainous area, north central and central coastal areas.
Together with mainland China and India, Vietnam is one of the three Asian countries that recorded an increase in planted forest area in the past several years, he said.
The overall output of timber harvested from plantation forests has been 4.1-4.5 million cubic metres a year, providing material for paper production, exported chips, basic construction, fuel wood, wooden furniture and furniture exports.
However, plantation and natural forests have had low productivity and quality, failing to meet socio-economic development requirements, especially for large timber materials for the processing and export industries.
Demand for sawn wood, fiberboard and other kinds of woods was expected to increase by at least 7 per cent annually until 2020, Bien said.
The local woodwork processing industry had developed rapidly in recent years, he said, noting that its export earnings rose from US$219 million in 2000 to $3.45 billion last year, creating high demand for raw wood materials.
Together with the recovery of foreign markets after the financial crisis, there was also an increase in demand for wooden furniture from the domestic market, he said.
To solve the materials question, Bien asked businesses to work with forest planters to harvest forests more effectively.
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