Forestry has proven itself to be one of the best investments farmers can make but the Government must not be tempted to pare back on its support to the sector in the forthcoming Budget, an industry expert has warned.
Michael Moran, area manager for Mayo at SWS Forestry, one of Ireland’s leading forestry companies, says those who invested in the industry some 15 to 20 years ago are now set to receive up to €10,000 an acre from the timber crop once production commences. “In addition the land value has increased,” he says.
And he says the industry’s potential is evident with demand outstripping supply. “It’s an industry whose time has come. In the biomass sector alone, the use of forest residue to generate heat and power is relatively new in Ireland with energy use from biomass at a mere 1.3 per cent while in Finland it’s 18 per cent. Yet Ireland has the best tree growing conditions in Europe, with an annual growth rate almost three times that of Finland.”
However, he urged the Government to “not be tempted by the economic crisis to pare back on supports to the forestry sector while it’s still in its infancy effectively.”
He said lessons should be learned from 2003 when “cuts in support had a devastating effect on the industry”. He said the Department of Agriculture’s own recent public consultation document acknowledges this. “The industry still needs the stabilising impact of State support.”
“Forestry is an extraordinary natural resource but it needs to be supported until it becomes a sustainable industry that can keep on delivering to farmers, investors, and the wider community,” he said.
With the annual planting season now about to get under way, Mr Moran said full information on all aspects of forestry as a farming enterprise will be available on the SWS Forestry Stand at the National Ploughing Championships which take place in Ratheniska, Stradbally, Co Laois, from September 24 to 26.