Foresters call for 50% budget boost for landowners planting much-needed-timber

Experts say tree-planting key to cutting farming emissions but State falling well short of targets

The Government should boost forestry payments by up to 50 per cent to aid landowners in planting much-needed timber, the industry said, with experts arguing that it was key to cutting farming’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Forest Industries Ireland’s (FII) pre-budget submission warns that grants for planting are hindering Government targets of planting 8,000 hectares of new timber a-year as they are not viable.

The organisation is calling for a 40 per cent to 50 per cent increase in “afforestation grants” — State cash for planting trees — which now range from €2,740 to €6,220 per hectare. These rates are below cost, should be increased and tied to inflation, says FII.

The group wants similar increases in forestry premiums paid to aid landowners to maintain timber, which are €185 to €680 a hectare.


The Republic is currently planting around 2,000 hectares of new forest a year, far short of the Government’s 8,000 target. A report by University College of Galway Professor Cathal O’Donoghue says the State needs to plant 18,000 hectares per year up to 2050 to hit zero carbon emissions.

“The more we fall short of the afforestation target, the greater the need to deliver carbon dioxide reductions from other sources including agriculture,” said Prof O’Donoghue. He added that the other option was a major reduction in animal numbers, which involved serious economic impact.

The report, The Economics of Afforestation and Management in Ireland: Future Prospects and Plans, says the State has never met its forestry targets. His study finds that if the State had done so, “it would have allowed for carbon neutral dairy expansion”.

Missing the actual target by 6,000 hectares a year is costing the State more than €400 million annually at current carbon prices, Prof O’Donoghue estimated. FII says that State spending on forestry fell to €69 million last year from €112 million in 2001, a 40 per cent decline.

Planting 8,000 hectares a year would, on their own, cut 12 million tonnes of carbon emissions worth €700 million annually, FII calculates. It would also create 6,000 new jobs and boost the €2.3 billion that the industry earns for the Republic every year.

FII director Mark McAuley argued that current planting rates show that forestry schemes are not attracting landowners and cannot compete with alternatives.

“It is abundantly clear that both forestry grants and premiums must be increased if we are to reverse the downward trend in afforestation rates and move towards the Government targets for afforestation which are 8,000 hectares a year and increasing,” he said.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas