IFA President John Bryan has said forestry is a long-term investment and farmers must have confidence in the sector if they are to convert their land to be part of a sector that contributes an estimated €2.2bn to the economy.
Addressing the IFA Farm Forestry National Conference – The Business of Forestry in Athlone, John Bryan said, “Cuts to the forest premiums, changes in the tax status of forestry income, reductions in support and increased management costs due to environmental constraints have undermined confidence in recent years. In addition, the decision by the Forest Service to restrict planting on unenclosed land has significantly reduced the land available to forestry, particularly since farmers have traditionally viewed marginal land as suitable for forestry”.
John Bryan said Ireland has the climate and soils to grow forests at a faster rate than most other European countries. However, only 11% of the country is under forest and the national strategic target for forest cover is 17%. “With current planting rates at less than half the sustainable planting level of 15,000 hectares, our national afforestation policy needs to be reviewed to ensure that the sector can deliver on its potential.”
IFA Farm Forestry Chairman Michael Fleming said nearly 20,000 private forest owners, of which more than 17,000 are farmers, have invested over the last 30 years. The private forest sector now accounts for nearly 50% of the national forest estate. He said the Government must continue to directly invest in the sector to ensure it realises its full potential.
Michael Fleming said of particular concern to forest owners at the moment is ash dieback. He said he was reassured that the extensive survey carried out by the Forest Service during the summer only found two additional cases of Ash Dieback disease. He said it looks like the eradication programme appears to be containing the spread of the disease, but we must remain vigilant.