Ireland’s afforestation levels ‘significantly behind’ those in Europe

Afforestation levels in Ireland are “significantly behind” those in Europe, according to the CEO of Coillte, Fergal Leamy.

He indicated that Coillte is fully behind the target set by the Government to reach 18% forest cover by the year 2046.

Speaking to AgriLand yesterday (Thursday, April 26) following an event organised by the Timber Industry Brexit Forum (TIBF), Leamy said: “I would point out that, as a country, our levels of afforestation are significantly behind what they are in Europe at 11% – versus the European average of 38%.

“I know in counties like Leitrim it’s just hitting above 20%. But it’s about understanding the land use and totality. The benefits of forestry in this country are hugely important.

The jobs that it provides are very real. It is about understanding concerns of people, understanding concerns of communities and ensuring that we work together towards achieving these goals and targets we set.

“I would encourage people who are planting in Co. Leitrim and in other areas to understand the concerns of the community. Because, at the end of the day, we are neighbours and we need to work together and live together,” he said.

Challenging

Leamy explained that this afforestation target will be “very challenging” to meet, but that Coillte would encourage land owners to examine the benefits of forestry.

Continuing, he said: “People need to better understand the benefits of forestry as a mixed land use of other parts of agriculture.

The 18% is the Government’s target which it has set and we are certainly supportive as the largest player in the industry of trying to drive towards that target.

“I think the mid-term review, which was launched there a little while ago, is the first attempt at trying to encourage financial incentives into this area.

“Ultimately, it’s about convincing people why they should give up their land to forestry. We believe it’s a good investment and, potentially, the competitive advantage we have in this country of growing trees is similar to our advantages in dairy – yet we don’t grab it,” he concluded.