New Government backed willow scheme under consideration

The Department of Agriculture is currently examining the feasibility of introducing a new Willow scheme.

It comes after the last scheme introduced by the Department to encourage farmers to grow the crop failed to receive sufficient interest.

Speaking in the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee this week, Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed said that the Department are looking at introducing a new willow scheme for biomass.

However, he stressed that there has been no final decision made yet.

“We haven’t yet decided on or detailed the programme, but it is under active consideration at the moment.”

The Minister highlighted that the Department did previously fund a willow programme which be said didn’t attract a lot of interst.

The last scheme focused exclusively on the growing of willow and provided establishment grants to farmers of up to 40% of the crop establishment costs subject to a maximum grant of €1,040/ha.

In the light of disappointing take-up in recent years, and in response to submissions from the sector, the eligible area for planting was increased substantially from 30 hectares to 50 hectares under the 2015 scheme.

Despite this, interest in the scheme remained very low with just four applications in 2015 for a total of 145 hectares of willow, much of which he said is not expected to proceed.

Minister Creed highlighted that a sufficient market is required for willow production to be successful in Ireland.

“It’s one thing to grow the crop but we have to have some where to go with the product. We need a full roadmap for the sector which will include a market for it once it’s harvested as well.

“Before we put our toe back in the water in respect to willow we are anxious to find a scheme that would work,” he said.