Government’s €1.3bn forestry plan stalled

Foresters warn that industry must be economic

Foresters blame Government delays for stalling a €1.3 billion aid plan for the industry that they say should have begun at the start of the year.

Agriculture ministers Charlie McConalogue TD and Senator Pippa Hackett announced details of a new plan to boost tree-planting grants and yearly forestry payments to landowners by up to two thirds last November.

Forest Industries Ireland (FII), however, says the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine delays have stalled the plan, which should have replaced an earlier scheme that finished at the end of last year.

Mark McAuley, FII director, warned that virtually no trees would be planted in the Republic until next November as a consequence of the promised Government supports that have yet to materialise.


According to the industry lobbyist, department officials only recently completed the paperwork needed to seek the EU’s approval under state aid rules for the Government to spend the €1.32 billion earmarked for forestry over the next five years.

He pointed out that it could take months for the EU’s competition directorate to approve the plan. “By then, we’re into summer – when you can’t plant trees as it’s too dry,” Mr McAuley added.

“The planting season is between Christmas and June. Forest companies have been sitting on their hands.”

Mr McAuley acknowledged that there had been some interim arrangements but that had little impact across the industry as a whole.

The new scheme was meant to run from this year to 2027. Government pledged to increase payments to landowners who planted timber by between 46 per cent and 66 per cent.

Measures included increases for planting native species, such as alder, beech, oak and sycamore, to €6,744 a hectare from €5,620.

Government also said it would extend the premium payment term to 20 years from 15 for farmers.

FII calculated at the time that total payments for commercial forest would increase to €155,000 from €77,000.

The organisation hailed the plan as a breakthrough when Government announced it last year.

FII had several times highlighted the coalition’s failure to hit its own target of planting 8,000 hectares of new forest every year.

The group, affiliated to employers’ body Ibec, says that the Republic has barely reached a quarter of that figure in recent years, blaming licensing delays and department bureaucracy.

Failure to hit planting targets threatens future supplies of timber, a key building material and, also, affects the Republic’s ability to meet climate targets, says FII.

Mr McAuley described the Government’s decision to increase the share of native species in new plantations to 35 per cent from 30 per cent as “excessive”.

He pointed out that non-native conifer species provided the Republic with timber, one of its key building materials.

“What we’re saying is the whole thing has to be economic,” he said, adding that this would not be the case if there is too much of a focus on planting native species.

He noted that the new programme supported planting 12 forest types. “But, only one of those types is actually commercial,” he added.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

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