Oireachtas Report, by Tim Ryan
The growing, harvesting and processing of forests in Ireland is estimated to be in the region of €2.2 billion, with approximately 12,000 jobs dependent on the sector, Fianna Fail Senator Paul Daly told the Upper House.
Timber production is in the region of 3 million cubic metres every year, and around 20% of that amount is produced by private landowners of forests.
Speaking during a debate on forestry, Senator Daly said forests cover some 11% of Ireland’s land area, approximately 770,000 ha, but this is against an EU average of 38%, which shows the substantial progress that could be made in this country.
“The Food Wise 2025 strategy has set a target of 18% afforestation by 2050,” he said. “It was under a Fianna Fáil government that ambitious planting targets of 10,000 ha per annum were set out in the National Development Plan 20072013, with more than 8,000 ha planted in 2010 alone.
“However, regrettably, under successive Fine Gaelled governments, annual planting targets have been downgraded to between 6,000 ha and 8,000 ha, which is significantly behind the Food Wise 2025 annual afforestation target of 15,000 ha per annum.”
The majority of what is being planted is replanted mature and cutdown forest that previously existed and is not new, virgin forestry, he said. Ambitious planting targets for forestry must be achieved, with a premium put on native broadleaf planting.