The Irish forestry sector is expected to double in size over the next 10 years, according to the CEO of Coillte Fergal Leamy.

“The Irish forestry industry contributes about €2.1 billion to the Irish economy and it provides approximately 12,000 jobs in rural areas in this country.

“Over the next 10 years the industry is expected to double in size.

“That will double in size in terms of fibre, it will double in size in terms processing capability in rural economies around the country,” he said at the launch of a €200m fund for the Irish forestry sector.

“It also has the potential to significantly increase the amount of jobs in rural areas, but it is important that we get the right type of supports in place to make sure that this is done in a very co-ordinated way,” he said.

On Coillte, Leamy said it is on a path to being the best forestry and land solutions company in Europe.

We have an ambitious strategy to transform out business from having a return on capital of less than 1% historically to one in the future that would have a return on capital of about 5%.

“Having the right financing structure in place to support our core forestry business, our renewable energy business and our wood panel manufacturing business is critical to ensuring that we achieve these objectives,” he said.

Also speaking at the launch, the Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan said forestry is often taken for granted but it is of growing importance to Ireland’s agri-economy.

“We are perhaps less aware in Ireland then other Member States of the value of forestry and the value that European society attributes to forest.

Wooded areas represent one of the European Union’s most important land uses, covering more then 40% of the total EU area and they have being expanding steadily.

“In Ireland, the output from forestry is predicted to double by 2028 but it is worth reminding ourselves that we have about 11% of the utilised area at the moment in afforestation, while the target area is 17% in the Rural Development Programme,” he said.