SPEAKING at the opening of the IFA Farm Forestry Conference in Portlaoise last week, IFA President John Bryan said private sector timber production has the potential to increase to 1 million m/3 per annum by 2018. Timber production from the private sector is currently at 200,000 m/3.
Forestry is now part of the general farm business for more than 16,000 farmers and the private forest sector accounts for nearly 50% of the national estate.
He stated, “If this production potential was realised it would mean an annual injection into the local economy of in excess of €50m from timber sales. There is also the prospect of the value of downstream processed forest products on the market.”
John Bryan said if these production targets are to be achieved, Government policy must reflect the central role farmers will play in the mobilisation of this resource and support them to achieve these targets.
“Despite the economic downturn, the demand for roundwood has increased considerably in the last year and this has been driven by the sawmilling sector increasing market share in the UK market, as well as developing new markets in Europe.”
He was adamant that the following actions must be prioritised if the potential of the sector is to be realised and market demand satisfied:
* Reduce the time required to get a felling licence (it can take up to six months in some instances);
* Increase funding to support construction of essential forest road infrastructure;
* Support the adoption of more suitable harvesting equipment for small-scale forestry; and
* Enhanced training for forest owners, particularly forest owner groups on timber, marketing, small tree felling, business development etc.
He added that the majority of private forests are owned by farmers and have been established in the last 20 years, which means that many farm forests are now at or approaching production stage.
Mr Bryan stated, “I would encourage all farmers with forests 14 years or older to talk to their local IFA Farm Forestry representative, Teagasc Forestry Advisor or foresters about starting to prepare for first thinning. Farmers should be aware that there is a limited opportunity to undertake first thinning operations and after this the risk of windblow increases significantly.
“Thinning your forest increases the financial return by increasing the volume of sawlog produced during the rotation.”
Concluding, John Bryan called on the Minister to re-activate the Forest Policy Review process so that Ireland’s national forest policy can provide a clear framework to farmers and forest industry alike on national wood mobilisation strategy.
“The economic viability and long-term sustainability of the farm forestry must be the cornerstone of Ireland’s forest policy,” he stated