Forestry Industries Ireland (FII) have said that climate change targets for the agricultural and land use sector will not be met, with planting for the year at 2,000ha instead of the goal of 8,000ha.
The FII met with leading EU Commission officials and MEPs to discuss the “challenging times” for the Irish forestry sector in a briefing held in the European Parliament by MEP Colm Markey.
The FII told officials that Ireland’s attempts to reach a million hectares of forestry from the current 800,000ha is “in doubt” and that levels have “stalled”, due to increased regulation.
“Ireland’s target of 8,000ha per annum planting is a long way off with the current rate around 2,000ha,” the FII stated.
Whilst in Brussels, FII also held meetings with DG Clima and the cabinet of Commissioner Mairead McGuinness.
European officials have agreed to visit Ireland in the new year to further their understanding of how the Irish forest sector works on the ground.
FII director Mark McAuley said: “Farmer confidence is a real issue and lots of potential planting sites are being rejected under the new land type restrictions.
“If we want to scale up our forestry model we need a sufficient focus on planting conifers where the landowner makes a real commercial return on their investment.”
According to the most recent forestry licensing dashboard for the week ending December 1, there were 67 licences issued last week, with only six of them for afforestation.
A total of 28 were issued for coillte felling licenses; eight were road licenses and a further 25 were for private felling.
A spokesperson from the Social, Economic Environmental Forestry Association of Ireland (SEEFA) stated:
“Using this weekly rate for 52 weeks assuming an average site size of 7ha with a 65% conversion – we would be left with a subsequent afforestation programme of only 1,400ha planted annually.”
A total of 22 afforestation licences were issued in total by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) in November 2023.
This brings the total number of afforestation licenses issued this year to date to 65.
The spokesperson from SEEFA added that there has been no licencing plan for 2024 announced yet.
“The minister is afraid to publish the plan as it will show his department cannot issue the licences necessary for the industry to function,” SEEFA stated.