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Hayes Announces Details of Proposed New Forestry Programme 2014-2020

Tom Hayes, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, with responsibility for forestry, has announced details of the proposed new Forestry Programme covering the period 2014 - 2020.

The proposed Programme has been released for public consultation, alongside an Environmental Report on this new plan for forestry. Following the public consultation process the proposed Programme will be submitted to the European Commission for their approval.

This public consultation exercise follows on from an earlier consultation process involving, inter alia, several bilateral meetings with stakeholders and representative groups. Arising from these discussions is an ambitious suite of 11 measures with increased grant and premiums rates for new afforestation projects. These measures aim to increase forest cover and generate additional supplies of timber and wood biomass to meet the projected increase in demand from the wood processing and renewable energy sectors.

Launching the latest round of public consultation, the Minister said that he was “encouraged by the level of engagement by stakeholders so far and was happy to announce that the number of premium payments being proposed is now 15 instead of 12 as set out in the earlier consultation document issued in March 2014”. The Minister added that “this was a significant improvement on what was originally proposed and is particularly noteworthy given that the premium rate has also increased by 10% for the most popular grant category”. The Minister also signalled a proposed small increase in some grant rates. The plan has been designed to encourage more land owners to invest in forestry with the introduction of two premium payment scales where applications greater than 8 hectares will receive a higher premium and, secondly, the inclusion of a single rate of premium for farmers and non farmers to incentivise non farmers to plant trees under the new scheme.

Changes are also being proposed to the forest road scheme in terms of the area of eligibility and the timing of payments. In addition it is proposed that a grant of up to €5,000 for special construction works be provided and support for connecting to existing forest road networks. The Minister commented that “The grants for special construction works will be targeted at applications falling within Natura 2000 sites and other environmentally sensitive areas; the aim will be to encourage the building of infrastructure that will help minimise any adverse effects on water quality that might arise from harvesting activity”.

The closing date for submissions, on both the new programme and the Environmental Report, is 5.00pm Monday, 13th October 2014. Further information on the consultation process is available on the Department’s website at http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/forestservice/publicconsultation/

Note for Editors

The objectives of the proposed Forestry Programme include the establishment of over 46,000 hectares of new forests, the construction of 960km of forest roads and improved levels of support for the establishment and conservation of native woodlands.

The case for investing in forestry

Economic and social benefits arising from past investments

State investment in the forestry sector has continued unbroken since the 1980’s. In terms of economic activity the value of the forest and forest products sector now stands at just under €2.3billion per annum and employs 12,000 people (both direct and indirect). In relation to recreation and tourism, it has been estimated that there are 18 million visits to Irish forests annually and that total economic activity generated by domestic forest users amounts to €268 million.

Potential for future growth

Indications are that there is strong potential for continued growth in Ireland’s forest sector as domestic demand for wood is set to increase by 40% during the period 2014-2020. On the export front Ireland’s share of the UK’s timber market increased from 3.37% in 2007 to 6.52% in 2012.  Over 89% of the output from the panelboard sector is exported along with almost 60% of Irish sawmill output. In 2011, the Irish panel products sector was the second largest exporter of particleboard and OSB to the UK marketplace.

Potential for growth in the domestic wood for energy market is also noteworthy as domestic demand for forest biomass is expected to increase by over 70% during 2014-2020.  With the advent of new EU targets for renewables post 2020, Ireland needs to continue its investment in forestry to meet growing demand for forestry biomass in the combined heat & power, co-firing and domestic energy sectors.

Climate change

Forestry has an important role to play in helping Ireland achieve its international emission reduction target by substantially reducing the amount of carbon credits that Ireland may need to offset this shortfall. In financial terms this could be quite significant. A recent study showed that the total amount of carbon sequestered (including harvested wood products) would average 5.3m tonnes per annum over the period 2021 - 2030.

The percentage of electricity supplied by biomass is also growing, albeit from a small base (0.04% in 2008 to 0.61% in 2011). In terms of carbon abatement where forest biomass is used for electricity and heat generation, this is valued at €11m per annum. Furthermore, in 2012, 225,000 m3 of firewood was used in Ireland to a value of €33 million, showing that it is providing a steady and a growing market for first thinnings.


View this Press Release as a PDF: DAFMPR 129/2014 (pdf 142Kb) 

 

Date Released: 10 September 2014