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Wastage plagues timber crafts

Nguyen Ton Quyen, general secretary of the Viet Nam Timber and Forest Product Association (VIFORES), said there are currently about 300 timber processing handicraft villages in Viet Nam, creating jobs for 300,000 labourers.

Though the number of villages making wood furniture only accounts for 6.6 per cent of the total number of handicraft villages, the revenue they produce annually reaches VND32 trillion (US$1.5 billion), which is 50 per cent of the total revenue earned by all handicraft villages.

Each year, timber materials used by the villages is estimated to reach up to 400,000 cubic metres.

Unlike modern factories which use advanced technology to save materials and increase the added value of products, many timber handicraft villages use only primitive techniques for furniture production. This causes material waste and stops product quality from being ensured, Quyen said.

To Xuan Phuc, an expert from the Forest Trends organisation, said that households often bought materials for production from wholesale middlemen, caring just about the price without paying attention to the origin or the legality of the materials.

He added that handicraft village management of local authorities still suffered from some shortcomings, especially in their supervision of materials, and their control over regulations of labour usage, the environment and worker safety.

Most of the villages had been not able to access information about policies relating to the use and development of timber material sources, he said.

Viet Nam and the European Union have started negotiations for a bilateral Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA).

The VPA is a key element of the European Union Action Plan for Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT), which comes into effect from January 2012.

The VPAs will allow for the identification of legal timber from the countries concerned through the issuing of a FLEGT licence and to only allow such timber into the EU when accompanied by a FLEGT licence.

One of the important parts of the agreement is building the Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS). The country is preparing to set up a TLAS to ensure that all products are made from legally harvested timber.

Wood handicraft villages should prepare themselves to meet requirements of the system, otherwise their production and development would be negatively affected, Quyen said.

Managing the villages' timber use was a way to prevent forest loss and degradation and improve forest management in a sustainable way, Phuc added.