Vietnam, with a land area of 331 236 km2, has a growing population of 97.3 million and has managed impressive economic growth in the challenging pandemic climate. Between 2015 and 2019, Vietnam posted consistent GDP growth figures of approximately 7%. In 2020, while the global economy contracted in the face of COVID-19, Vietnam achieved 3% economic growth. Vietnam’s economic growth rate exceeds its 1% per annum population growth resulting in an increasing GDP per capita. With 70% of Vietnam’s population currently of working age, this trend is predicted to continue until 2045. Experts expect that Vietnam’s ‘golden demographics’ will ensure its continued economic prosperity into the foreseeable future.
The rapid rise of Vietnam’s forestry industry is due to an expanding plantation forest resource, an entrepreneurial and relatively low-cost workforce, a strong growing economy, investment support and incentives, and export-oriented government policies. In the late 1980s, after decades of forest degradation and loss, Vietnam opted, through prudent policy and law reforms, to prioritise forest restoration and reforestation resulting in the first plantation forest development and its subsequent expansion. The 1993 Land Law is an example of legislative change that was a catalyst for growth in plantation forestry. This Act saw millions of households allocated land on lease terms for agriculture and forestry. In contrast to other countries, today, individuals and households control a high 42.6% proportion of the 4.39 million ha plantation forest resource of Vietnam.
As Vietnam’s forest resource grew, so too did its wood processing and exports. For example, while hardwood woodchip exports were less than 0.5 million BDMt/a in the early 2000s, by 2010 that had risen to 4.1 million BDMt/a, and by 2020, to more than 12.1 million BDMt/a. In the Asia-Pacific region, Vietnam supplies more than 50% of the hardwood woodchip market.
While Vietnam has been very successful at increasing export volumes and market share, it has been less successful at increasing prices. Nominal hardwood woodchip prices from Vietnam have remained around USD 150/BDMt since 2006, below the weighted average for large supplying countries. This is in part attributed to the generally lower quality of woodchip, anecdotal reports of wood species substitution and the lower achievable pulp yield from acacia woodchip compared to eucalyptus woodchip from Australia.
Similar to the skyrocketing production of woodchip, wood and wood products export earnings have increased from USD 2.18 billion in 2006 to USD 12.4 billion in 2020. The US is the largest market for Vietnam’s wood and wood product exports, reaching USD 7.17 billion in 2020, 34% more than in 2019 and accounting for 58% of total wood and wood product exports from 2020. Vietnam is now the second largest exporter of furniture in the world, following a period of intense expansion. Global growth in the export furniture market averaged 2.7% for the period 2015-2020 to an average annual value of USD 68.3 billion while Vietnam’s market share increased from 5.8% (2015) to 14.5% (2020).
Vietnam, which once supplied less than 1% of the world’s exported wood pellets, now supplies 12% of total world export volume. This market share increase is substantial as global trade of wood pellets has increased from less than 10 million t/a in 2012 to over 25 million t/a in 2020.
Despite dealing with the challenges associated with COVID-19, such as disruptions to supply chains, imports, exports, social distancing and increasing freight costs, Vietnam has still achieved growth in the forest export sector for 2021. The future for Vietnam’s wood exports looks bright with rising global demand for woodchips, wood pellets and value-added wood products driven by population growth, increasing disposable incomes, demand for renewables and increasing urbanisation.
 World Bank (2022) https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.KD.ZG?locations=VN
 EIU (2021) Rising Star: Vietnam’s role in Asia’s shifting supply chains.
 General Statistics Office (2020) Statistical Yearbook of Viet Nam.
 IHS Global Trade Atlas (GTA) (2022)
 Triệu, V., Pham, T. & Đào Thị, L. (2020) Vietnam Forestry Development Strategy: Implementation results for 2006–2020 and recommendations for the 2021–2030 strategy. [Online]. Bogor, Indonesia, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
 FORDAQ (2021) Overview of Vietnamese wood product exports in 2020 [online]
 FAOSTAT (2022)
 MARD (2021) https://www.mard.gov.vn/en/Pages/vietnam%E2%80%99s-forestry-export-up-20-percent-in-2021.aspx#:~:text=Vietnam’s%20forestry%20export%20value%20this,percent%2C%20an%20official%20has%20said.