May / June 2018 • Issue 3 • PANELS & FURNITURE ASIA 62 SHOW REVIEW Vietnam demonstrated the strength of its furniture and wood products industry, now responsible for US$8 billion of exports per year at the VIFA-Expo fair at the Saigon Exhibition & Convention Center in Ho Chi Minh City from March 7 to 10. Deputy Minister of Agriculture & Rural Development (MARD) Mr Ha Cong Tuan. Image credit: Turnstone Singapore. V IFA Expo was bursting at the seams with only a small percentage accommodated in the two indoor halls and the majority of exhibitors in the much larger tented area. The 2018 fair has grown by 29 per cent compared to the previous year, now totalling 394 companies occupying over 30,000 square metres. Vietnamese manufacturers of furniture, handicrafts and décor accessories represent 68 per cent of exhibitors with an increasing number of international companies from China, Taiwan, Korea, Australia, USA, Canada, Europe and Africa. Deputy Minister of Agriculture & Rural Development (MARD) Mr Ha Cong Tuan spoke at the opening ceremony about the Vietnamese government’s focus on the sustainable development of the economy, adding that the woodworking industry was at the spearhead with average growth of 10 per cent per year. The government is committed to help the industry export globally—now the 5 th largest wood products exporter—and is encouraging companies to invest in new technology. A key milestone in 2017 was the initiation of a VPA/ FLEGT agreement and MARD is working hard to sign the agreement as soon as possible. MARD will hold a conference in the next few months in the presence of the Prime Minister to make decisions to help the whole furniture supply chain and contribute to the sustainable development of forest industries in Vietnam. At theGlobalWoodProductsMarket Development Seminar organised by HAWA with the support of Swiss Import Promotion Programme (SIPPO), European speakers gave an overview of furniture demand and trends in the ECE (Europe, Central Asia, USA & Canada). INDUSTRY URGED TO UPGRADE Helmut (Max) Merkel, editor-in-chief of Möbelmarkt magazine described the furnituremarket inGermany, the biggest market in Europe but also one of the most difficult due to the dominance of eight large buying groups and the increasing share of retail sales achieved by huge furniture malls (Möbel Inhofer, Möbel Mahler & Neu-Ulm).