Forestry plantings heading for 60-year low
Next year's planted forestry area is set to be the lowest since 1947 unless the capital expenditure budget for forestry is increased, the Association of Irish Forestry Consultants (AIFC) has warned.
Planting levels will fall back to 1,800-2,500ha next year, unless funding is increased by €25m, the AIFC has claimed.
Planting levels have not fallen that low since 1947, when 2,350ha were planted.
AIFC chairman Seán Lenihan said €89m has been allocated for forestry in 2011, but €80-82m of this is required for existing commitments, leaving just €7-9m for new planting.
"This will be a disaster for the forest industry and the country, and will affect the livelihoods of many people employed in forestry, mainly in rural Ireland," Mr Lenihan insisted.
"If there is no change to the proposed budget, there will be major job losses in the industry, which currently employs 12,000 people, and our carbon emissions bill will increase as we need to plant 15,000ha a year to maintain the carbon sequestration potential of our forests," he added.
Uncertainty about annual budgets has caused falling planting levels in recent years. In the early 1990s, the annual average was more than 16,000ha, but this has fallen closer to 7,000ha. However, Mr Lenihan maintained there was potential to achieve annual plantings of 10,000-12,500ha or more if there was a sufficient budget in place.
Fine Gael agriculture spokesman Andrew Doyle accused the Green Party of forfeiting its own forestry targets.