IFA Farm Forestry Chair Jason Fleming said farmers are very concerned about the establishment of the Irish Strategic Forestry Fund by Coillte and Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF).
“The focus of the State planting programme, as well as Exchequer spending, should be on farmer planting. This has the greatest positive impact on the economy, as the majority of the money generated from forest premiums and timber sales is spent locally, fuelling economic growth and supporting jobs and businesses in towns across Ireland”.
He said that the main opposition to forestry in recent years has been driven by foreign investors coming in and buying land for forestry, distorting the land market and making it increasingly difficult for local farmers, particularly young farmers, to compete.
“The economic benefits when an investor plants or buys existing forests is significantly less as the majority of the money leaves the local economy,” he said.
Irish and international investors will be supported by the State by the Forestry Programme 2023 – 2017, receiving 100% grant aid to establish the new forests and premiums of between €11,200 to €16,500 per hectare over the 15-year term of the forest premium payments, depending on the forest type established.
“With already strong demand in the agricultural land market and limited supply, the new Irish Strategic Forestry Fund is likely to further increase the competition for land, which will result in more farmers being priced out of the market and unable to expand operations to future proof their businesses,” he said.
The Irish Strategic Forestry Fund will provide up to €200m capital from Irish and international investors to create new forests and acquire existing forests, with the intention to create a portfolio of approximately 12,000 hectares.