As the climatic and edaphic conditions in the south are suitable for teak, Vietnam has high prospects in teak wood. However, the government in Vietnam also face up with many difficulties.
1. Difficulties in the management of teak resource development in Vietnam
After the First Regional Seminar on teak, held in China in 1991, the Ministry of Forestry became interested in developing teak. It planned that 10-15,000 ha of teak plantations would be established by the year 2000. These plantations would be established on suitable sites, mainly in the eastern, southern, and highland provinces, in larger blocks for producing industrial materials. Important preparations that have been already carried out in this programme include:
- The setting-up of seed orchards by selecting 100 ha of the best teak plantations established in 1962.
- The setting-up of 10 ha, plus tree seed orchards, by grafting the genetically superior stocks found in local plantations.
- Some silvicultural techniques have been developed for site determination, stump planting, and tending and thinning skills.
The major difficulty, however, still remains in the current deficiency of investment capital. This restricts the raising, tending and protection of teak plantations, especially under the new large-scale planting programme.
Established plantations require two tending treatments a year until the end of the third year. After that, on good and some medium sites, depending on the agricultural crops planted under the teak, some additional tending may be needed for a few more years until its canopy closes. As farmers are more concerned with the food crops, a part of teak trees is destroyed – on an average 20%. Teak plantations on poor and medium soil quality sites, which are too far for villagers to cultivate food crops, face another problem. Tending is carried out only for the first three years. Natural grasses develop vigorously in the rainy season, but die off in the dry season. This causes forest fires which can destroy the teak plantation, or cause seriously malforming stems and slow growth.
2. Difficulties in trade and marketing
The teak plantations in Vietnam are still small in area and young in age. None of them have reached their rotation age yet. Therefore, trading information on teak is not an urgent requirement. However, as the valuable wood resources in the country’s natural forests have been nearly exhausted, and also as the Ministry of Forestry restricts its harvest, small diameter teak logs produced from thinnings sell in the local market at an acceptable price of US$150-180/m3. These logs are used for housing, decorative goods, and high grade furniture in major cities.
3. IMPORTANT SUBJECTS FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF TEAK RESOURCES
Improvement of national forestry policies
Plantation teak wood is of lower value compared with some prized indigenous species. However, as its growth rate is much higher than that of these high quality indigenous species, the Ministry of Forestry is promoting its development in large-scale plantations. Since its rotation period is longer than that of fast-growing species such as eucalypts and acacias (mainly used for paper-making), this makes private investors prefer planting these species to teak. Under these circumstances, teak is only planted by the Government sector, financed by national funds. In order to motivate the active participation of the private sector in teak plantations, the Government will further improve land, tax, and relevant funding policies, besides technical development. At the same time, the Government has to address how to minimize problems of forest fires, pests and diseases, and declining soil fertility in forest plantations through appropriate policy measures.
Policy measures cannot produce a maximum result unless they are well combined with research and technology development efforts. The following address some research and technological aspects to lead the current re-afforestation plan to the year 2000 to a great success.
Research of teak processing
The felling volumes from thinnings and final cuts in teak plantations will steadily increase in Vietnam as teak plantation resources grow bigger in the re-afforestation plan to the year 2000, at the annual rate of 3,500 ha. Teak processing technologies, especially for the effective use of small diameter teak wood, are needed
Improvement of silvicultural techniques
Current considerations on silvicultural and utilisation techniques include:
1) genetic improvement of teak seed sources;
2) mapping of suitable teak planting sites; and
3) complete development of technical packages of raising, tending and thinning of teak plantations.
In Vietnam now, the genetic improvement of teak seed sources relies on the existing plantations. However, it is most likely that the genetic basis is quite narrow and maybe very poor. If this is true, it would not only be difficult, but impossible to improve growth rates and tree quality from such poor genetic resources. Thus, genetic improvement work on Vietnamese teak becomes one of the top priority subjects. Important components of this programme will be: provenance trials from the best exotic sources and their comparison with local seed sources under different environments in southern Vietnam; and the establishment of seed orchards and development of micro-propagation techniques (cuttings, tissue culture) to supply improved planting materials as soon as possible.
The second subject is related to land use, soil nutrients, climate, infrastructure, processing and marketing facilities, etc. This covers a wide range of natural sciences as well as socio-economic subjects. More integrated information should be collected and analysed for this purpose. The third subject can be achieved when all these information are well consolidated in an integrated body.
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