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VIETNAMWOOD 2015
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
14-17 October 2015

A BUSY AND VIBRANT SHOW

Vietnamwood in October, busy and vibrant, suggested a growing confidence again by the woodworking industries in Southeast Asia, somewhat like the recent IFMAC woodworking machinery show, held in Jakarta in September. The difference between the two shows was more wood on offer by overseas suppliers to Vietnam than to Indonesia, a country much less dependent on imported material.

Held at the Saigon Exhibition & Convention Centre (SECC), the fair formed the hub for a busy week in wood. It was supported by woodworking machinery associations from Taiwan (TWMA) and across Europe (Eumabois) led by Germany’s Woodworking Machinery Manufacturers Association (VDMA), as well as local Vietnamese associations led by the ‘Handicraft & Wood Industry Association of HCMC’ (HAWA). The wood material sector was supported by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC). The show was reported to have included 280 companies from 21 countries showcasing 1,200 machines, products, materials and services.

At the official opening Ms Phan Thi Thanh Minh from the Ministry of Trade and Industry said “Vietnam’s economy is integrating deeply into the regional and world economies. In 2015 there were many important events; the Vietnam – Korea Free Trade Agreement signed in early May, the trade agreement between Vietnam and the Asia – Europe Economic Union in late May, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) across the Pacific concluded this month and the ASEAN Economic Community, yet to come into force.” She concluded that the agreements would bring growth opportunities for Vietnamese enterprises, including those in the wood processing and exporting sector, but also fiercer competition. Wood product exports grew 14.1% in 2014 to US$4.3 billion and have continued to grow – 8.5% in the first 9 months of 2015. Commenting on this growth, Mr Ingo Bette, Marketing Director, VDMA, echoed “Vietnam is a land full of promising opportunities.”

The Wood Section
The show included a diverse array of overseas wood suppliers, including a prominent American Pavilion with 30 hardwood exporters hosted by AHEC with a full team of staff supporting from its Washington D.C. headquarters and Hong Kong office. Referring to the show, John Chan, AHEC regional Director, says “Vietnamwood is a well-respected trade fair serving the U.S. hardwood and local timber processing and furniture industries.” Wood exhibitors from Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, Malaysia and Turkey provided a wide range of logs, sawn lumber, veneer and wood-based panels on offer, many of which are certified to PEFC and FSC. During the week there was much comment in the national media as to the Vietnamese Government’s determination to tighten up on legality of timber. Many local Vietnamese wood processing and distribution companies also participated. Vietnam is highly dependent on imported wood, particularly for processors exporting to USA, EU and Australian markets, which have legislation requiring due diligence and tracking by buyers of wood materials to ensure legality.

On the opening day the lead woodworking organisation HAWA held a technical seminar at the SECC “Woodworking Best Practice Sharing Workshop” on furniture production for its members, covering labour efficiency issues, innovations, and information sharing. HAWA has recently moved into a newly refurbished office and meeting facilities in the centre of Saigon which offers a showroom, library and networking for its 175 corporate members.

Events
For the first time the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), the world’s largest forest certification system, featured with an exhibit, a workshop/seminar and a technical session for certifying bodies now working in Vietnam. Finally, in this frenetic week of activities, the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) held its off-site seminar for architects, with support from HCMC Association of Architects at the new prestigious GEM Centre under the title ‘The Right Choice for Sustainable Design’ followed by a networking reception. Opening the seminar Dr Gerald H. Smith, Senior Attaché for Agriculture Affairs at the U.S. Consulate in Saigon, stressed “Sustainability is a key issue at this time. This seminar will improve the knowledge of Vietnamese to create a win/win for modern design in U.S. hardwoods.” Mr Nguyen Truong Luu, President of Ho Chi Minh City Association of Architects, thanked AHEC for this opportunity to bring together the two associations for the benefit of architects in Vietnam. The USA exported $238 million of hardwood products to Vietnam in 2014, up 10.7% on the previous year; and imported $2.2 billion of furniture from Vietnam.

Keynote presentations were then given by Executive Director Mike Snow on ‘U.S. Hardwood Environmental Profile and Sustainability’ followed by an explanation of ‘U.S. Hardwood Lumber Grades’ by Dana Spessert, Chief Inspector NHLA. These were followed by presentations from the architect and contractor of the magnificent GEM Centre, with its extensive use of American Ash interiors and Oak furniture. The GEM Centre has been one of the images of AHEC’s recent ‘Designed in Asia and Made in Asia with American Hardwood’ promotion campaign.

Final Comments

Speaking about their own conclusions at the end of the show, opinions by various wood suppliers were mixed as to its value, with some excited by the prospects in Vietnam and others more cautious. Comments included “It’s been a learning experience” (USA), “Not so busy this year” (Italy), “Very good show” (Australia), “They took all my catalogues!” (Turkey), “Happy” (Canada), “Very good growth” (France), “Good” (USA).

The next Vietnamwood Fair will be held in 2017 and is managed by Chan Chao International Co Ltd in Taipei, Taiwan.

Footnote:
There often appear some anomalies at wood trade shows – usually relating to wood names, or misnomers - and not least at Vietnamwood 2015. This issue is becoming important as new due diligence legislation, especially EUTR, calls for correct naming of species and origin. One example at Vietnamwood show came from Cintac Timber, apparently an Australian based company, offering to be ‘your natural partner in the timber industry’. Its promotion brochure included a fact sheet, or perhaps in this case better called info sheet, on Red Oak logs. The origin is given as Europe, and furthermore the sheet is headed FSC. Red Oak is generally regarded as native only to North America, although it has been widely planted in parks and gardens in Europe. If there are commercial forests of Red Oak in Europe it would be surprising if they are certified by FSC, although one never knows. Copy available on request www.cintactimber.com surprising if they are certified by FS