Chair of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Jackie Cahill, has expressed “major concerns” about the significant threat posed by the great spruce bark beetle to Irish forestry. Cahill highlighted that the insect is rapidly spreading through Britain and causing extensive damage to forests there. He emphasized that the potential impact of the beetle on Irish forests should not be taken lightly, considering the previous diseases that have afflicted trees in the country, such as the elm tree and ash dieback. Cahill stressed the need for utmost caution to prevent further damage to Ireland’s forestry industry, stating that the bark beetle has the potential to cause catastrophic harm.
The great spruce bark beetle tunnels into the bark of living trees to lay eggs, and the larvae subsequently feed on the living woody material. This process creates cavities that weaken the tree and ultimately lead to its death. Recognizing the severity of the situation, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) is calling for a temporary suspension on the importation of timber from Scotland until a comprehensive review of the biosecurity measures for the great spruce bark beetle is conducted.
In response, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) has clarified that imports of roundwood logs from a pest-free area (PFA) in Scotland are subject to an inspection regime. The DAFM emphasized that all coniferous roundwood timber imports into Ireland must comply with the EU Plant Health Regulation, and importers must be registered as professional operators. Furthermore, the DAFM spokesperson reiterated that the only area from which imports of coniferous roundwood with bark are permitted is a specific UK Government-assigned “pest-free area” in the west of Scotland.
Deputy Jackie Cahill has emphasized the importance of maintaining the highest standards of biosecurity measures at Irish ports. The Tipperary TD has sought clarification from Minister of State at the DAFM, Pippa Hackett, regarding the current precautions and examinations of imports at ports. Cahill firmly stated that if the appropriate safety mechanisms are not in place to protect Irish forests from the bark beetle, a ban on timber imports from affected regions is the only viable option.
In summary, the great spruce bark beetle poses a significant threat to Irish forestry, as it has already caused extensive damage in Britain. Given Ireland’s history of tree diseases, precautions must be taken to safeguard the country’s forests. The IFA is calling for a temporary suspension on timber imports from Scotland until a thorough review of biosecurity measures is conducted. The DAFM has clarified that imports from a pest-free area in Scotland are subject to inspection and must comply with EU regulations. Deputy Jackie Cahill has stressed the need for robust biosecurity measures at Irish ports and has suggested a ban on timber imports from affected regions if necessary.