The Association of Irish Forestry Consultants (AIFC) has partnered with the Social, Economic, Environmental Forestry Association of Ireland (SEEFA) to address the challenges faced by the forestry sector. The main concern within the industry is that the policies and procedures implemented by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) are undermining the government’s commitment to increase afforestation. Currently, Ireland is falling short of its target of planting 8,000 hectares annually, with only 1,552 hectares planted so far this year, according to the latest figures from DAFM.
SEEFA and AIFC will represent private stakeholders including nurseries, establishment companies, foresters, contractors, ecologists, maintenance, and harvesting companies. The primary objective of the partnership is to hold the DAFM accountable for its “failed” policies and procedures and ensure that the private sector is treated equally in terms of consultation and the issuance of licenses.
SEEFA has identified several key concerns within the industry. Firstly, there are doubts about DAFM’s ability to implement the Forestry Programme 2023-2027 effectively. Additionally, the establishment of exclusion zones without scientific justification has limited the availability of suitable land for forestry. Grant rates are also deemed “insufficient” and do not adequately support forestry practitioners or companies. Moreover, the licensing system remains dysfunctional, with no clear timelines or accountability for the process, even after six years. The government’s focus on Coillte, the state-owned forestry company, while neglecting the private sector, is seen as contrary to previous government successes. Furthermore, the issue of ash dieback, highlighted in a scathing report by a review committee appointed by Minister of State at the DAFM, Pippa Hackett, has not been adequately addressed.
SEEFA is increasingly concerned that Ireland’s future supply of valuable home-grown timber is at risk due to current policies. The organization believes that the private forestry sector needs to define its role within the industry and distance itself from the negative perceptions associated with forestry. SEEFA aims to secure full ministerial support and support from the European Commission to encourage farmers to engage with forestry.
SEEFA Chairman Teige Ryan emphasized the importance of a united approach from the private sector in engaging with the government and European authorities. AIFC Chair Dermot Houlihan highlighted the extensive experience of AIFC members in working with farmers, landowners, and DAFM afforestation programs over the past 25 years. The group fully supports the industry-wide call for the immediate establishment of a forestry development agency to ensure a sustainable forestry and forest products sector in Ireland.
In conclusion, the partnership between AIFC and SEEFA aims to address the challenges faced by the forestry sector in Ireland. By advocating for improved policies, procedures, and support for the private sector, the organizations hope to achieve a sustainable and thriving forestry industry for the country.