The forestry sector cannot afford to stand still, according of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Tom Hayes.

Innovation and the development of new markets and products are the lifeblood of every sector, he told delegates at the National Forestry Conference, and said that at national level there are three main issues for the sector: the formulation of the new forestry programme to bring us up to 2020, the updating of the legislative framework within which the forestry sector operates and the outcome of the review of forest policy.

Noting that afforestation is crucial to the long-term sustainability of the sector, he advised that he would be seeking to resolve the issues associated with the hen harrier areas and also reiterated “that my Department is looking at all options available within this new framework [the new forestry programme 2014-2020] to maintain an attractive afforestation scheme for the next six years. It goes without saying that the country is still facing a serious budgetary situation in terms of the public finances and my Department will have to fight for every cent that we get but I am satisfied that investment of public money in the forestry sector makes sound economic sense.

He said forestry has a significant contribution to make to the economy and society in general, and pointed out that there are just under 12,000 people employed in the Irish forestry and forest products sector and that some 78% of the output of Ireland’s processing sector was exported in 2012.  

He also updated the conference on current and long-term issues associated with the development of the forestry sector, including the measures taken to deal with the storm damage to Irish forests earlier this year, the ongoing work in dealing with forest diseases and ensuring that factors affecting afforestation and forest management are dealt with.