IFA President, John Bryan cautioned the Government that any cuts to the existing forest premiums could endanger the sustainability of the forest sector, with serious implications for rural communities. He said that farmers had entered into a contract with the Government in good faith and this must be honoured.
The private forest sector now accounts for nearly 50% of Ireland’s forest estate. It is mostly composed of small fragmented forests, which are managed by approximately 16,000 farmers. The mobilisation of this resource poses a major challenge for farmers, predominantly farmers that have no experience of harvesting and marketing timber.
Mr. Bryan stressed that the priority must be to support existing forest owners to mobilise the resource. He maintained that there is no point expanding the forest estate if the existing forests are not being sustainably managed. It is essential that the support schemes be appropriately funded in the upcoming budget.
He said that farmers had made a significant investment in forestry and must be supported to realise the potential of their investment. He continued that forests not only provide a livelihood for thousands of farmers but also contribute significantly to economic growth and jobs, especially in rural areas.
He stressed that each year the supports schemes are under funded the value of the private forest estate is being diminished and more forests will not be thinned. If this trend continues the timber production forecasts will not be achieved, with serious implications for forest-based industries including the burgeoning bioenergy sector.