Sitka spruce is the ‘equivalent of a Friesian cow’ in the Irish timber industry

Sitka spruce was deemed “the equivalent of a Friesian cow” in the Irish timber industry, by John Murray of the Murrary Timber Group.

Murray was speaking as the Timber Industry Brexit Forum (TIBF) published recommendations for post-Brexit trading which it hoped will minimise disruption to trade and safeguard jobs.

The report – entitled ‘Brexit: Protecting Growth in the Irish Timber Industry’ – was then presented to the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, at an event in Dublin yesterday (Thursday, April 26).

Commenting on the need for Ireland to reach planting targets moving forward, Murray said: “We are a quiet industry, there is no doubt about that; we don’t tend to wave the flag too much.

“There is an unchallenged platform out there where people are talking about planting – we’ll say – non-productive species, from a sawmill industry point of view. There are many issues with this.

Sitka spruce, while there seems to be an awful lot of talk about monoculture, is the equivalent of a Friesian cow – that’s what it does for the industry.

“The nearest performer, as a native Irish cow, produces one third of what a Friesian produces – I know the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) would be up in arms if they were told to change all of their cows to that.

“All the new planting in Ireland is private and, if there isn’t a financial return on it, then it’s not going to happen – and that’s the facts of it,” he said.

The TIBF outlined that the Irish forestry industry supports some 12,000 rural jobs and contributes €2.3 billion to the economy every year.

The sector is scheduled to double in size over the next 15 years. The projected growth is dependent on ongoing access to the UK market, the biggest timber importer in Europe, the TIBF explained.

The Irish timber industry relies heavily on the UK market, with nearly 80% of current output and 100% of future growth exported to the UK, the report added.