Less than 6% of private forests in Ireland have been voluntarily certified, according to a study carried out by the Council of Forest Research and Development (COFORD).

A voluntary process, forestry certification certifies private forests according to a defined set of metrics. In presenting the results of the study, COFORD also outlined a series of recommendations.

The study was received by the Minister of State in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), Pippa Hackett yesterday (October 28). Welcoming the publication the minister said:

“This study on voluntary certification clearly outlines the importance of  increasing the area of certified forest in Ireland.

“While state forests have been certified since 2001 the extent of certification in the private sector remains too low and can be a barrier to market access for those owners.

“This study outlines a number of recommendations and suggests a series of next steps which are important now for all stakeholders to examine.”

Minister Hackett stated that her department will also study the report and establish what action will be taken to increase the area of certified private forests in Ireland

The two main certification bodies currently operating in Ireland are the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).

The minister added that in order to increase the certified area, action would be required from all stakeholders across the industry. She said:

“My department has provided funding for a number of pilot certification studies in the past and these have provided valuable insights on the practicality of certification, as well as providing templates to assist private owners considering having their forest holdings certified.

“However, it is clear that more needs to be done by all stakeholders to expand the level of certification needed for full market access. I look forward to examining the next steps in how best to address the recommendations.”

Chair of the COFORD council, Dr Eugene Hendrick added:

“The report and its recommendations are very timely as harvesting levels in the private sector are projected to exceed the Coillte levels within the coming five years.

“In the absence of a readily available certification process, and with close on two and half million cubic metres set to flow from private forests, their owners are likely to struggle with market access.”

“The recommendations brought forward in the study as a way forward to facilitate voluntary forest certification should be examined by all stakeholders and the minister,” he concluded.