Minister urged to ‘fast-track’ forestry legislation to ‘prevent infected timber import’

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has been called on by Labour TD Seán Sherlock to “fast-track new forestry legislation to prevent infected timber entering the market”.

Commenting on the issue, deputy Sherlock – who is the Labour Party’s agriculture spokesperson – said: “We need to resolve the crisis in the forestry industry now.

“The longer the felling licence issue goes on the higher the risk of contamination to imported timber. It’s a risk that we can’t afford to take.”

Deputy Sherlock asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a biotic threat potential may be posed by the proposal to import de-barked timber from central Europe and in particular due to the presence the spruce bark beetle in mainland Europe.

Responding, Minister McConnalogue said: “My department is currently dealing with a number of queries concerning the importation of logs from Germany.

“The department regards this trade as a potential high risk pathway for the introduction of Ips typographus and other damaging bark beetles into Ireland.

“Ireland’s natural protection as an island and recognition of both its pest-free status and, as a special protected zone under EU plant law, has helped to ensure so far, that this beetle and many others have been kept out of the country.

“However, experience continues to demonstrate that bark beetles can be found even under a very small piece of bark on a log in a consignment of any size which is why we need to be vigilant.

Regarding the import requirements, debarking is not an acceptable import standard and it should not be confused with the ‘bark-free’ requirement.

“The “bark-free” requirement means that the logs must be 100% free of bark, the minister said.

“Bark-free wood is wood from which all bark, except ingrown bark around knots and bark pockets between rings of annual growth, has been removed.

“Any prospective importer is reminded to engage fully with the department for guidance on import requirements and for departmental inspection arrangements.

It is entirely the importer’s responsibility to ensure the import meets the standards required and the department will closely inspect consignments on arrival at quayside to verify these standards are satisfied.

“Because of the potential risk involved, meticulous inspection of consignments is required and non-compliant loads i.e. loads that include any logs with any bark, will not be allowed to discharge.

“Importers should give this careful consideration when planning and costing a proposed import of logs declared as bark-free,” Minister McConalogue concluded.