The European Timber Trade Federation (ETTF) and European Organisation of the Sawmill industry (EOS) issued a joint statement in April to highlight the wide‐ranging and severe impacts the coronavirus outbreak is having on the timber value chain. The construction sector, a fundamental market for the timber industry, has taken a hit in the UK. This is a key market for Ireland, with approx. 80% of the forest products produced in Ireland exported to the UK, Germany and Benelux countries. The effects of the coronavirus crisis are beginning to be seen in lower demand for wood products.
Activity since last National Council
The delays getting decisions on forestry licences (afforestation, roads and felling) continue to be an issue for forest owners with frustration mounting, as in some instances the delays are reducing value of the timber crop. The following licences were issued in April.
Licences issued in April continue to show an improved rate on the previous months for all three categories. The felling figure brings the volume licensed to 1.5 million m3 for the first 4 months of the year. The biggest change in April was a significant increase in private felling licences, as a proportion of overall licences which we estimate to be approx. 55% i.e. 230,000 m3 of the volume below issued to private applicants with the balance to Coillte.
The above figures do not include positive decisions from the Forestry Appeals Committee (FAC). In the last month (24thApril to 15th May) 35 cases were heard by FAC, of which 23 cases were confirmed and 12 cases were cancelled. For more information on the FAC decision click here.
IFA has written to the Department seeking additional information on the number of licences that are screened ine. within a 15km of a Natura site, which then require the farmer to either pay for a NIS or wait an undetermined amount of time, but at current rates in excess of a year, for the application to be processed internally through the Appropriate Assessment Requirement (AAR) system. This information is pending.
IFA undertook a survey of forestry consultants and companies to get an indication of the cost of Natura Impact Statement, the average cost is between €1,500 to €2,200. However, due to the high and low return, particularly in first thinning, many farmers are opting not to proceed with application.
IFA addressed concerns in relation to the use of insecticides in Irish forests, particularly cypermethrin, which is used to treat pine weevil. Seedlings planted after clear felling operations are especially at risk. The adult weevils cause damage by eating the bark of seedlings around the ‘collar’ of the stem, thus ‘ring-barking’ the tree seedling, which usually results in its demise. Tree seedling are often dipped in insecticide to protect the young plants and in some cases, where there is a high rate of infestation, a top up spray at close range by an operator with a knapsack sprayer is spot sprayed to the base of the young sapling. In Ireland pesticides are never applied aerially in forests.
IFA participated in a webinar on the European Green Deal and Forests. The Green Deal is a set of policy initiatives brought forward by the European Commission with the overarching aim of making Europe climate neutral in 2050. The implementation of the strategies and polices proposed relating to the forest sector are wide ranging and include climate policy, biodiversity policy, energy policy, forest strategy, industrial policy and will have significant implications to the sector in the coming decade. It is important that as the Green Deal relates to the forest sector that:
It is more producer centric; and
There is greater emphasis on the role of the bio-economy.
IFA followed up with Department to get update on the status of the draft supports for plantations impacted by Ash Dieback disease following meeting with Minister Doyle in March.
IFA inputted into the terms of reference for the newly established Ecosystem Services Working Group under the COFORD Council.
Teagasc & Prosilva Ireland are showcasing Ireland’s Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF) pioneers in a new online CCF case study series. The series focuses on the owners’ experiences in transforming their forests and provides real figures of timber outputs from felling interventions.
There is a Condition Orange – High Risk Forest Fire warning in place from the 20th to 22nd May, unless significant rainfall. Based on recent fire incidents, most ignition risks appear to be associated with deliberate ignition on public recreation lands and forest sites open to the public. If you see a fire report it to the Fire and Emergency Services by dialling 999 or 112. You will not be billed by the fires service or local authority for making the call.
Organise series of virtual regional Farm Forestry committee meetings to update officers on work that is being undertaken and ensure regional forestry issues/concerns are addressed.
IFA to continue to maintain pressure on the Department to provide short-term plan to address forestry licences backlog and proposed to remove management operations i.e. thinning from the licencing process.
Finalisation of IFA Forestry Programme post 2020 submission.