The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) has been granting an average of 60 forestry licences per week throughout July and the first three weeks of August. In total, DAFM has issued 189 forestry licences this month, but only one of these licences was for afforestation. So far this year, only 11 afforestation licences have been issued, while 60 applications have been received. The total area planted this month is 138 hectares, bringing the total for the year to date to 1,158 hectares. Additionally, 3 kilometers of forest roads have been constructed in August, making the total for the year 42 kilometers.
In response to these figures, the Social, Economic Environmental Forestry Association of Ireland (SEEFA) expressed disappointment, stating that an average of 60 licences per week falls well below the target of 100 per week set by DAFM for 2022. SEEFA believes that the current licencing system is dysfunctional, insufficient to serve the industry, and unable to achieve government policy. They argue that the department’s inability to issue licences in a timely manner will be a significant obstacle in the next forestry programme.
The recently approved afforestation measure, which is part of Ireland’s new €1.3 billion Forestry Programme 2023-2027, will soon begin accepting applications. The goal of this measure is to increase Ireland’s forest cover to 18% by the end of 2027, compared to the current 11.6%. Under the afforestation scheme, direct grants will be provided to cover up to 100% of eligible costs. The scheme will be open to companies of all sizes in the forestry sector, and the application opening date has yet to be announced.
In terms of felling forestry licences, DAFM has approved the felling of 2,194 hectares or a volume of 472,339 cubic meters over the past two weeks. This brings the total for the year to date to 23,126 hectares. Of the approved felling licences, 1,044 were for private felling and 907 were for Coillte felling. Additionally, 115 forestry road licences have been issued so far this year.
These figures highlight the ongoing challenges and delays within the forestry sector in Ireland. The slow pace of issuing licences and the limited progress in afforestation are hindering the achievement of government targets. It is crucial for DAFM to address these issues and streamline the licencing process to ensure the successful implementation of the new forestry programme and the growth of the forestry sector in Ireland.