IFA would agree with the overall vision of the report that a sustainable forestry sector requires that high quality wood and wood based products be produced, so that the highest possible returns can be secured.
However, the mechanisms to achieve this vision and the structural challenges faced by the sector are not adequately addressed in the report. The priority must be the mobilisation of the private forest resource and although some mechanisms are identified such as the provision of road networks, promotion of producer groups and training; the report lacks concrete actions.
The development focus of the sector must change, from afforestation to providing proper supports to develop forest access networks and other infrastructures suited to small-scale and the fragmented forests, typical of the Irish private forest sector. This is a crucial precondition for increased wood mobilisation.
Government policy must be cognisant of the fact that this is the first generation of Irish farmers to produce timber at any scale. They need to be supported to establish efficient management structures such as forest owner groups or public private partnerships to optimise timber supply chains.
The lack of supports for existing forest owners is impeding the development of the sector and if action is not taken immediately the timber production potential of the sector will not be achieved.