Vietnam’s footwear industry needs to invest heavily in new technology and training if it wants to become a key player in the international marketplace, a senior government official said on Thursday.

Deputy minister of industry, Bui Xuan Khu, said if the industry is to reach its 2010 export target of $7 billion from its existing $1.5bn then it needs to spend millions on state-of-the-art machinery and technology.

The country’s footwear firms exported 320 million pairs of shoes last year with the vast majority of that total ending up in Europe.

"Vietnam’s needs for new machinery and technology are tremendous, as this (footwear) is a young industry in Vietnam and has much room for development," Khu told the Saigon Daily Times.

"Most of the machines in use now were manufactured in China, Taiwan or Korea and have become obsolete. Footwear manufacturers have not approached machinery and technology from advanced economies like the Group of Seven (G7) industrialised nations."

He added: "The footwear industry has just submitted to the government a master plan for development between now and 2010, mainly involving big acquisition schemes. The general targets are to raise export earnings to $3.1bn to $3.5bn by 2005 and $6.5bn to $7bn by 2010."

Other key parts of the strategic plan include improving domestic production of raw footwear materials and improving brand recognition for locally-made products.