According to the National Forest Inventory Report of VNFOREST (2017) Viet Nam has around 14.4 million hectares of forested land, which constitutes 41.2% of the total land area. Around 10.2 million hectares are primary or otherwise naturally regenerated forest, and around 4.2 million hectares are planted forest.
Viet Nam’s forests are rich with resources and diverse ecology, holding a rich biodiversity, including many endemic species. The forest ecosystems of Viet Nam can be divided in the following groups: (1) Tropical evergreen rainforests with a dense vegetation and rich biodiversity; (2) evergreen forests on limestone mountains, holding the characteristic indigenous flora of northern Viet Nam and southern China; (3) deciduous forests suffering a long dry season, and dominated by Dipterocarp tree species; (4) mangrove forests along the coasts; (5) tropical semi-deciduous moist forests in mountainous areas with high rainfall, but with a dry season of 1 to 3 months; (6) natural coniferous forests in mountainous areas; (7) Melaleuca forests in areas with frequent waterlogged conditions, mainly in the Mekong River delta; and (4) bamboo forests (VNForest, 2013).
The current Vietnamese forest area is at 77% publicly owned, 22% is privately owned and the remaining 1% is under another type of ownership: 21.7% is managed by Communal People’s Committees (PC), 14.2% by special forest management boards, 20.8% by protection forest management boards, 20.4% by households, 7.8% by communities, 11.2% by state forest enterprises, 1.9% by private enterprises, 1.3% by army forces, 0.1% by FDI enterprises, and 0.6% by other organizations (VNFOREST 2017, p.74).
Forests in Viet Nam are categorized into three main categories:
(i) special use forest (16%), mainly protected areas such as national parks and nature conservation areas;
(ii) protection forest (34%), mainly for protection of water sources, soils, and environment;
(iii) production forest (50%), including both natural forests and forest plantations (VNForest, 2017).
Production and export
According to ITTO (2017) the Vietnamese forest industry produced in 2015 about 12.7 million m3 of logs, which is mainly used by the domestic industry. Wood sourced from the Vietnamese forests originates often from plantations, also because of the logging and export bans which are in place. Species most commonly used in forestry plantations are Acacia (Acacia spp) and Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp).
The wood-processing industry, in 2017, in total used about 38.4 million m3 of timber, in which 7.7 million m3 for the domestic market and 30.7 m3 for export markets VIFORES (2018).
Viet Nam is a net importer of timber and Viet Nam’s wood processing sector is highly dependent on imported materials from a large number of sources. In 2017 Vietnam imported timber and timber products for a value of about 2.2 billion USD (Vietnam Customs) from different countries as shown in chart below (Source: FPA Binh Dinh).
Viet Nam's wood processing industry is particularly known for production and exports of high-end wood products, particularly furniture. Viet Nam is one of the world's largest exporting countries of timber and timber products, with exports valued at $7.66 billion in 2017 (Vietnam Customs), whereas the exports of primary timber products were valued at 769.8 million US dollars in 2014 (ITTO, 2015).
Viet Nam has about 4,500 wood processing enterprises, 95% of which are privately owned and 5% are state owned. 93% of enterprises are small or very small, 5.5% medium, and 1.5% big (VIFORES, 2018). About 1,500 enterprises both process and export timber & timber products.
The relatively low-cost labour force and a favourable environment for foreign investment are the main competitive advantages of the Vietnamese industry.
Besides furniture the main export products of the Vietnamese wood product industries are wood chips and paper, with Viet Nam being one of the biggest wood chip exporting countries of the world. The main destination markets for the exports of wood chips, totalling 8.2 million ton in 2017 (Vietnam Customs), are displayed in the graph below (Source: FPA Binh Dinh).
The main destination markets for the exports of wood products are displayed in the graph below. It should be noted that this graph does not include the exports of furniture and pulp and paper products.
Timber products are exported from Viet Nam through a number of ways:
- Directly from timber processors to overseas retailers or importers.
- From processors to traders in Viet Nam with links to external markets.
- From processors to overseas companies operating in Viet Nam who then sell the product overseas. (TFT, 2014)
Viet Nam has a number of ports, but the biggest ports from North to South are: (1) Cai Lan in Quang Ninh province, (2) Hai Phong, in Hai Phong province, being Viet Nam's most important seaport in the North, (3) Da Nang, the third largest seaport located in Da Nang City towards the middle of Viet Nam, (4) Dung Quat in Quang Ngai province, (5) Quy Nhon in Binh Dinh province, (5) Ho Chi Minh City in the South, and (6) Thi Vai-Cai Mep in Ba Ria-Vung Tau province.
Sources of information
- VNFOREST (2017) - The National Forest Inventory 2013-2016 Report
- Forest Trends, VIFORES, FPA BD, HAWA (2018) - Vietnam Timber and Timber Products Import and Export
- FAO (2015) Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015.
- Forest Legality Alliance country profile – Vietnam
- Fordaq - timber trade network
- Forest Trends (2011) Baseline study 3, Viet Nam: Overview of Forest Governance and Trade
- FPA Binh Dinh, Secretary General presentation
- ITC (International Trade Centre) calculations based on UN Comtrade statistics
- ITTO (2015) Biennial review and assessment of the world timber situation 2013-2014.
- TFT (2014) Country guide to timber legality: Vietnam
- VNForest (2013) Viet Nam Forestry. Introduction to the Forests and Forest Sector of Viet Nam.
- World Port Source - Map of ports in Viet Nam with container liner service.
It is important to realise that this legality framework focusses only on timber harvested in Viet Nam. For timber imported to and processed in Viet Nam additional regulations apply, which are not covered here.
At the national level the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) is responsible for management of forest resources through the Viet Nam Forest Administration (VNFOREST), which is divided into four key departments: Forest Protection (focusing on law enforcement), Forest Utilization (forest production), Forest Development, and Nature Conservation (forest conservation).
Parties harvesting timber in Viet Nam must hold a valid land use title. The most important user groups entitled to harvest timber in Viet Nam are ‘State companies’ and ‘Households’, while a significant part of the national forest area has not yet been allocated to any forest user group but are managed directly by communal People’s Committees (PC) – the lowest level of state administration in the country.
Companies are only liable to paying value-added tax (VAT). No forest, timber, or export-based taxes, fees or royalties exist as part of the Vietnamese forest/timber sector taxation system.
Forest titleholders harvesting forests need to be in the possession of an approved harvesting plan in order to be entitled to harvest timber. The relevant authority responsible for the approval of the harvesting plans depends on the position and ownership of the titleholder. Pursuant to the allocated harvesting quota, a harvest design (including the hammering marks of the trees to be harvested) is developed and submitted for approval and issuance of a harvesting permit by the Provincial Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development. The maximum duration of harvesting permits is 12 months since its issuing date.
After issuance of the harvesting permit the titleholder is allowed to harvest the trees. All logs transported from harvesting areas are checked and marked with an official hammer mark of the Forest Protection Department (FPD). For smaller trees not subject to hammering this stamp is replaced by a hammering certificate. After harvesting the forest owner and Department of Agriculture and Rural Development conduct an evaluation to measure actual harvest versus harvest design. Subsequently, the company must be in possession of an approved post-harvest inspection report for all harvested areas.
There are no specific legal documents that must be used in Vietnam in relation to customary rights or indigenous people’s rights. Forest-related issues, when they occur, are solved by local governments on the basis of regulations or laws such as the Land Law, the Forest Protection and Development Law (currently) and the Forestry Law (as from 2019).
For transportation of domestic timber, and before logs leave the forest, a document package needs to be completed, which includes:
- a packing list is issued according to the prescribed MARD format (Circular 01, 2012);
- a sales invoice according to the regulations of the Ministry of Finance;
- Ex-warehousing-cum-internal transportation bills for internal transportation
- Official FPD record of timber hammering compatible with the timber consignment. If logs are not subject to FPD stamping, they should have a certificate from the district FPD. Alternatively, a Commune PC certificate should be available for timber from plantations or from scattered trees.
Timber processing and trading facilities must maintain wood log books to record all wood entering and exiting the facility. Data must be recorded within one day of the transaction. The format of the log books is provided and guided by the district Forest Protection Department (Circular 01, 2012).
Valid export documents must include: the bill of lading; packing lists for the sawn timber or wood products; and chain-of-custody records indicating the origin of logs used to produce wood products.
The below listed key documents are based on the applicable legislation and are considered to play a key role in demonstrating legal origin.
Processing and Trade
Bans and quota
A logging ban is currently in place for natural forest, protected forest and special purpose forest. This ban is not applicable for two areas covered by FSC Forest Management certificates, and for non-commercial harvesting activities by households, individuals and rural communities.
An export ban is also in place covering logs and sawn wood from domestic natural forests (not plantations).
Cites and protected species
Some tree species from Viet Nam are listed on the CITES Appendix II.
- Thailand rosewood, Trắc (Dalbergia cochinchinensis). The CITES listing applies to logs, sawn wood and veneer sheets. See also the below-listed restriction of the government with regard to this species.
- Agarwood (Aquilaria spp.). The CITES listing applies to all parts and derivatives except: seeds and pollen; seedling or tissue cultures obtained in vitro, in solid or liquid media, transported in sterile containers; fruits; leaves; exhausted agarwood powder, including compressed powder in all shapes; and finished products packaged and ready for retail trade; this exemption does not apply to beads, prayer beads and carvings.
- Chinese yew (Taxus chinensis). The CITES listing applies to all parts and derivatives except: seeds and pollen; and finished products packaged and ready for retail trade. See also the below-listed restriction of the government with regard to this species.
- Himalayan yew, Thông đỏ nam (Taxus wallichiana). The CITES listing applies to all parts and derivatives except: seeds and pollen; and finished products packaged and ready for retail trade.
- Serpentine wood (Rauvolfia serpentine). The CITES listing applies to all parts and derivatives except: seeds and pollen; and finished products packaged and ready for retail trade.
Tree species for which exploitation and use for commercial purposes has been prohibited by the Vietnamese government:
- Himalayan cypress (Cupressus torulosa)
- Taiwania (Taiwania cryptomerioides)
- Vietnamese golden cypress (Xanthocyparis vietnamensis)
- Fansipan fir (Abies delavayi spp. fansipanensis)
- Kwangtung pine (Pinus kwangtungensis)
- Himalayan yew (Taxus wallichiana)
- Chinese Swamp Cypress (Glyptostrobus pensilis)
- Diospyros salletii
- Sưa (Dalbergia tonkinensis)
Tree species for which exploitation and use for commercial purposes has been restricted by the Vietnamese government:
- Mann's Yew Plum (Cephalotaxus mannii)
- Chinese Incense-cedar (Calocedrus macrolepis)
- Calocedrus rupestris
- Fujian Cypress (Fokienia hodginsii)
- Du sam (Keteleeria evelyniana)
- Dalat pine (Pinus dalatensis)
- Krempf's Pine (Pinus krempfii)
- Chinese yew (Taxus chinensis)
- Cunninghamia (Cunninghamia konishii)
- Gõ đỏ (Afzelia xylocarpa)
- Lim xanh (Erythrophloeum fordii)
- Sindora siamensis
- Gụ lau (Sindora tonkinensis)
- Trai (Garcinia fagraeoides)
- Thailand rosewood (Dalbergia cochinchinensis)
- Burmese Rosewood (Dalbergia oliveri, D. bariensis, D. mammosa)
- Burma Padauk (Pterocarpus macrocarpus)
- Vù hương (Cinnamomum balansae)
- Cinnamomum glaucescens
- Selasian wood (Cinnamomum parthenoxylon)
- Nghiến (Excentrodendron tonkinensis / Burretiodendron tonkinensis)
Organizations and individuals who are involved in processing and trading these species for commercial purposes must guarantee the following regulations (Decree No. 32/2006/ND-CP):
- Possess a trading license for processing and trading specimens of wild animals and plants and their products, authorized by local authorities.
- Endangered, precious and rare species and their products must be of legal origin.
- Possess a log to record the import and export of endangered, precious and rare species and their products in compliance with the regulations in Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and under the supervision of FPD’s in compliance with the existing law.
National action on timber legality
Viet Nam and EU started VPA negotiations in November 2010. On 11 May 2017, the EU and Vietnam formally concluded their negotiations towards a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), by initialling the document. The VPA has 9 annexes: (1) Product Coverage, (2) Vietnam timber legality definition, (3) Conditions governing the release for free circulation in the Union of timber products exported from Vietnam and covered by a FLEGT licence, (4) FLEGT licensing scheme, (5) Vietnam timber legality assurance system (VNTLAS), (6) Terms of reference for the independent evaluation, (7) Criteria for assessment of the operational readiness of the Vietnam timber legality assurance system, (8) Public disclosure of information, (9) Functions of the joint implementation committee. The TLAS details technical information on the timber legality verification mechanisms and the timber supply chain controls that Viet Nam intends to implement once the VPA is initialled (EFI, 2015).
Vietnam is now preparing for VPA implementation and expects to issue FLEGT licences in 2020 (VNFOREST 2017).
Third party certification
As of March 2018, 231'546 hectares of the Vietnamese forests were covered by an FSC FM certificate (FSC). The majority of the certified area is plantation forest.
There were however two certified natural forest areas covering together 47'238 hectares, for which the harvesting ban is not applicable (Decision No. 2242/QD-TTg), managed by the following certificate holders:
- Dak To forestry in Kon Tum province, certificate no. GFA-FM/COC-002356 (terminated 23 May 2018);
- Truong Son Forestry, member of Long Dai Forestry Industry in Quang Binh province; certificate no. GFA-FM/COC-002634.
As of March 2018, 599 Vietnamese enterprises had an FSC CoC certificate (FSC), and 7 others had a PEFC CoC certificate (PEFC, December 2017).
Another certification initiative is the development of the national Vietnam Forest Certification Scheme (VNFCS), which will be submitted to PEFC for endorsement.
Sources of information
- Circular 32/2006/TT-BNN guiding the implementation of the Government's Decree no. 12/2006/ND-CP of January 23, 2006, detailing the implementation of the Commercial Law regarding international goods sale and purchase and goods sale, purchase, processing and transit agency activities with foreign countries
- Circular 21/2016/TT-BNNPTNT on guiding the implementation of timber and non-timber forest product harvesting and salvaging
- Circular No. 01/2012/TT-BNNPTNT stipulating dossiers of lawful forest products and inspection of the origin of forest products.
- Circular No. 40/2015/TT-BNNPTNT dated 21 October 2015, amending and supplementing of Circular No. 01/2012/TT-BNNPTNT
- CITES database
- Decision No. 59/2005/QD-BNN promulgating the Regulation on inspection and control of forest products.
- Decision No. 2242/QD-TTg dated December 11, 2014 approving the Scheme for strengthening the management of natural forest’s timber exploitation in 2014 - 2020
- Decree No. 12/2006/ND-CP making detailed provisions for implementation of the Commercial Law with respect to international purchase and sales of goods; and agency for sale and purchase, processing and transit of goods involving foreign parties.
- Decree No. 32/2006/ND-CP on Management of Endangered, Precious and Rare Forest Plants and Animals
- EU FLEGT Facility - Vietnam
- Forest Legality Alliance country profile – Vietnam.
- FSC (2018) FSC Facts & Figures
- PEFC (2017) PEFC Facts & Figures
- NEPCon (2018) Vietnam Timber Risk Profile
- Nguyen Ton Quyen and Tran Huu Nghi. 2011. How Viet Nam is prepared to meet legal requirements of timber export markets. Tropenbos International Viet Nam, Hue City, Viet Nam, X - 44 pp.
- PEFC - Vietnamese Government Reinvigorates Efforts to Advance Forest Certification
- TFT (2014) Country guide to timber legality: Vietnam
- WWF GFTN (2013) Guide to Legal & Responsible Sourcing: Vietnam
- WWF GFTN (2015) Country profiles: Vietnam
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Source: Transparancy International