IFA Farm Forestry Chairman, Pat Hennessy welcomed the recent announcement by Sean Connick, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food that financial approval will issue for a further 1,500 hectares of new planting this autumn.

Mr. Hennessy said, “Such is the demand among farmers that much of this planting is already underway. Farmers are eager to plant as they have serious concerns that there will be a very limited planting programme in 2011 or the scheme will not be as attractive, if the 15% cuts outlined Capital Investment Priorities 2011-2016 report are implemented.”

He said that cuts to the budget could jeopardise the sustainable development of the sector and are unwarranted as forestry provides a very favourable return to the State, compared with other capital projects. The current budget must be ringfenced to safeguard the sector and protect jobs.

“There is enormous growth potential in the private forest sector, but this will not be realised if the budget is cut. Since the downturn in the Irish construction sector there has been strong growth in the export market for Irish timber products. In 2009 Irish timber products doubled their market share in the UK, which had a value of over €51 million to the Irish economy.”

Pat Hennessy said, “To satisfy the growing demand for Irish timber products in the export market it is essential current supports are maintained to ensure a sustainable supply of raw material, as well as to construct an infrastructural network to access this valuable indigenous resource. Such was the demand in 2010 within the private forest sector that funding for the Forest Road Scheme was consumed in less than four months.”

Concluding, he said, “As tough as our current economy situation is supporting the forest sector makes sense. Forest offers real opportunity to grow the economy and produce more goods and service, to create new value added businesses and quality sustainable jobs, as well as increase energy security.”

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