IFA Farm Forestry Chairman Pat Hennessy said the maintenance of the forestry programme budget acknowledges the contribution of the forest sector to the economy and its increasingly important role in rural development. In 2010, the value of the forest industry to the economy was estimated at over €2.8bn.
Mr. Hennessy said the protection of the forest premiums should help to restore confidence in the Afforestation Scheme, which was severely damaged by the forest premium cuts in 2009 budget. However, he said that if the sector was to achieve afforestation targets the Government must guarantee there will be no further cuts to forest premiums.
He said, “This issue of confidence in the scheme needs to be addressed if there is any chance of achieving future afforestation targets. Many farmers are not willing to commit land to forestry when uncertainty exists in relation to forest premiums.”
To ensure sustainable future timber supply for the wood processing and wood energy sectors, an afforestation programme of 15,000 hectares is required. The 2012 budget allows for an afforestation programme of just less than 7,000 hectares.
He said, “Of greater concern to private forest owners is the 30% reduction to support schemes in the budget. It is very disappointing that the limited resources were not focussed on supporting forest owners to sustainably managing the resource and facilitate the mobilisation of the private sector timber resource.”
Mr. Hennessy said that the budgetary priority should have focused on maximising the potential of the existing resource through increased supports for forest roads and the introduction of supports for forest owner groups.