HANOI, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) -- Nearly 934 hectares of forest has been claimed by timber poachers in Vietnam in the first nine months of 2016, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on Monday.

The country reported a year-on-year increase of nearly 28 percent in number of illegal logging cases to hit 1,594 in the nine-month period.

The total area stripped by illegal loggers grew by 10.3 percent from the same period last year.

Vietnam maintains an ambitious plan to reduce deforestation by around 20 percent next year and increase forest coverage from 40.84 percent in 2015 to 41.3 percent next year.

In June, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc issued a ban on clearing natural forests to protect the remaining 2.25 million hectares. This move was in a bid to prevent abuse of a policy that allows companies to clear degraded forest areas to plant commercial trees.

A report by the ministry showed that the country lost 123,000 hectares of forest to illegal logging between 2010 and 2014.