Afforestation programme payments in Ireland totaled €61.4 million in 2022, marking a slight decrease of 1.4% compared to the previous year, according to the latest data released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO). The payments for forest roads, on the other hand, experienced a significant decline from €4.2 million in 2011 to €2.8 million in 2022. In terms of coverage, forest roads payments accounted for 70km of forest roads in 2022.
The CSO data also revealed that County Cork accounted for 14% of the main afforestation programme payments in 2022. Niamh Shanahan, a statistician in the Environment and Climate Division of the CSO, commented on the data, stating that the main afforestation programme payments in 2022 amounted to €61 million, which represented a 43% decrease from the highest figure of €108 million recorded in 2010. Shanahan further highlighted that County Cork consistently received the highest afforestation programme payments each year. In 2022, Cork accounted for 14% of the payments, followed by Kerry (8%), Clare (8%), and Galway (6%).
Shanahan also provided insights into the payments for forest roads, stating that they reached their peak in 2011 with €4.2 million for 116km of roads, but declined to €2.8 million for 70km in 2022. Kerry accounted for the highest share of forest road payments in 2022, with 15% of the total, followed by Cork with 11% and Roscommon with 10%.
The CSO attributed the reduction in funding for forest road construction to changes in eligibility for grant aid in 2008. The focus shifted from public bodies to private forest owners, which partially explains the decrease in funding over the years. It is worth noting that forest road construction by public bodies continued during the same period without grant aid, and those figures were not included in the CSO’s data.
In Ireland, financial support is provided for both the establishment and maintenance of new forests and woodlands. Set-up grants can cover up to 100% of the total costs, while an annual premium per hectare is available, with the rate depending on the species of trees planted. The grants are paid in two instalments, with the first instalment grant and premium claimable after planting and the second instalment claimable four years after completion of planting.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) utilizes a computerized mapping and payment system called iFORIS to capture a digital representation of the payment area based on the applicant’s claim map. It is important to note that for afforestation projects involving an area of 50 hectares or more, an application for approval must be accompanied by an Environmental Impact Statement.