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Vietnam's wooden exports saw a robust start in the new year of 2024, recording significant growth in January despite global economic headwinds

According to a report from Vietnam's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the country raked in $1.49 billion from wooden goods exports last month, representing a sharp rise of 72.5% year-on-year. This outstanding performance has boosted optimism across the timber industry as players gear up for greater opportunities in key markets.

The United States, China, Japan and South Korea remained Vietnam's top four export destinations for wood products in January, taking up 85% of total wood shipment values. Notably, shipments to the Netherlands - a major importer within the European Union (EU) saw nearly double-digit growth of 93.8% from a year ago. Industry experts attributed this to higher demand from the Netherlands to replace energy sources from sanction-hit Russia. 

Looking ahead, industry stakeholders remained hopeful towards prospects in the US and EU markets. For the US, privately-held wood panel manufacturer Kim Gia expressed confidence in capturing more demand from the lucrative California and New York construction sectors through improved customer targeting and direct engagement. On the EU front, analysts foresee recovering wood imports as clients seek alternative suppliers to Russia and China.

The positive start was aided by some stabilization in global shipping costs after months of steep increases. Container freight rates from Vietnam to Europe have retreated to around $3,786 per 40-foot box currently, though still elevated from pre-pandemic levels. However, declining freight trends in recent weeks provided more relief to exporters.

As consumption picks up in major markets while transport cost inflation eases, Vietnam's wood exports are on track to achieve the Vietnam Forest Products Association (VIFOREST)'s projected target of $17.5 billion for 2024, representing 20% growth over last year. This encouraging start best positions Vietnam as a major global wood supplier, reinforced by its robust production base and vigorous trade relationships.

Looking ahead, Vietnamese wood companies will continue investing in technology and product quality to maximize the industry's competitive edge. Coupled with favourable diplomatic ties and economic integration, Vietnam is well-poised to cement its status as a leading wooden goods provider worldwide with its abundant resources and productive workforce.

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