Some 7,140ha of forestry is to be planted in Ireland this year under the Afforestation Programme, according to the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed.

This is the target set out in the Forestry Programme 2014 – 2020, he said in response to a query in the Dail last week.

The Minister also outlined the total area of new forests for which grants were paid during the period 2011-2016 under the scheme:

afforestation plantingMeanwhile, the allocated funding for the Forestry Programme in 2016 was €113.855m, which allowed for 6,500ha of new planting.

The Minister said that the actual expenditure was broken down as follows; €97.797m to the Afforestation Programme, and €5.908m for Forestry Support Schemes.

The allocation for 2017 is €111.675m, with €98.5m being provided to the Afforestation Programme, and €13.05m allocated to the Forestry Support Schemes.

Forestry Support Schemes include funding for, inter alia, Forest Road Works, Reconstitution, Woodland Improvement Scheme along with COFORD, the Forest Service Inspectorate and Promotion, the Minister said.

“The current Afforestation Scheme provides a range of grants that cover the full cost of establishment of the plantation and payment of annual premiums to both incentivise planting and to compensate for the loss of agricultural activity on the land that is planted.

“The Afforestation Scheme is voluntary and demand-led. Financial support for the 2014-2020 Forestry Programme is 100% Exchequer funded under EU State Aid rules.”

The Government’s budget for the sector covers all grant aid in planting new forests, forest road construction grants, forest premia payments to forest owners and other supports to the sector.

The sector contributes in the region of €2.3 billion to the Irish economy and supports 12,000 jobs.

Figures show that at the beginning of 2016, forests covered 10.7% of Ireland’s land area compared to an EU average of 38%.