Demand for US hardwoods in Vietnam has grown in recent years as factories here sent more furniture to the US the Furniture Today newspaper reported Friday August 26. Vietnam imported US$22.9 million in US hardwoods, including red and white oak, ash, maple, yellow poplar, cherry and walnut in 2004, according to the US Department of Agriculture. That’s up from US$11.3 million in 2003 and US$926,640 in 1999.
Observers say much of the 2004 increase resulted from the shifting of sourcing from China to Vietnam during last year’s antidumping investigation, which resulted in the imposition of mostly small duties on US imports of wood bedroom furniture from China.
The good news for US lumber exporters is that the growth may continue as Vietnamese furniture makers look to do more business in the US.
That appears to be happening already. For the first five-months of this year, Vietnam imported US$11.6 million in US hardwoods, up from US$7.7 million in the same period last year.
Case goods manufacturer Interwood Vietnam uses US hardwoods such as ash, maple and walnut in both its solids and veneers. Right now, a lot of that is being used in furniture produced for customers in Europe.
As it looks to supply the US market with indoor furniture, Interwood likely will increase its use of those and other hardwoods such as hickory.
Scansia Pacific plans to use more US hardwoods as it boosts production for the US market, said Managing director Nguyen Chien Thang.
Not all US lumber exporters have done as well as they’d hoped in Vietnam. John Beard, president of E.N. Beard Hardwood Lumber, said he’s sold some lumber to brokers doing business in Vietnam. But because of the relatively low duties on Chinese-made bedrooms, he said sales to Vietnam hadn’t grown the way he thought they would.
“If the tariffs had been 15% or 20%, there would have been more advantages (in shifting sourcing to Vietnam),” he said. “It really didn’t develop the way everybody thought.” Still, Beard is keeping an eye on the Vietnamese market. “I think it will grow,” he said.
Beard visited Vietnam about two and a half years ago and saw the quality and high literacy rate of the work force there. “The labour rates in Vietnam are even cheaper than in China,” he said. “The next logical step in terms of furniture production is Vietnam.”
Wendell Cramer, president of W.M. Cramer Lumber Co., said he hasn’t yet done any business in Vietnam, but hopes to. “It would be excellent to get some inquiries from them,” he said.