Sale of Coillte is ruled out by Fine Gael and Labour
Published 25/01/2011 | 05:00
The Labour Party and Fine Gael have ruled out the possible privatisation of the state forestry company Coillte.
The statements follow recent media reports that Coillte might be sold off due to the collapse in public finances.
The possibility of selling Coillte, which owns more than one million acres of forest and upland -- 7pc of the land area of the State -- was initially raised by Colm McCarthy in the Bord Snip Nua report and came back into focus following the announcement of an examination of State assets by the Department of Finance.
However, Fine Gael agriculture spokesman Andrew Doyle has vigorously defended the continued State ownership of Coillte.
"Coillte and forestry are now central to the change in thinking needed to deal with the effects of climate change and a low carbon economy. The Fine Gael 'New ERA' plan will invest in a combined Coillte and Bord na Mona to increase forestry planting and to create a biomass-for-energy industry," Mr Doyle said.
"Our vital national resources are not up for sale. National resources like forestry, agriculture and marine resources are held in trust for all the people of Ireland.
"Ministers are stewards of these resources and must return them to the people with benefits after their term in office. That includes the forests of Ireland," he added.
Labour Party agriculture spokesman Sean Sherlock said the sale of Coillte was not an option.
"We should be looking at ways that we can use Coillte's resources to a greater extent," Mr Sherlock said.
Last month, Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith refused to rule out the possible sale of the company.
In response to a Dail question from Sinn Fein's Martin Ferris on the status of Coillte, Minster Smith stated: "A review group on state assets and liabilities, under the chairmanship of Colm McCarthy, was established by the Minister for Finance to examine and provide advice on the proper stewardship of state assets and on opportunities for the better use of those assets. The outcome of that review is awaited."
The International Forestry Fund, a Swiss-based investment company which is chaired by former taoiseach Bertie Ahern, has expressed an interest in taking a stake in Coillte.
The British government has recently outlined plans to sell 15pc of its national forest landholding.
Meanwhile, a 40-fold increase in sawn wood exports has been reported by Coillte over the past 12 months. The State forestry company claimed that sales of wood for the construction sector jumped from 5,000m3 in 2009 to 200,000m3 last year. The company attributed the surge in exports to improved international demand for certified wood-based construction material.