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Sunday 24 September 2017

Timber growers cautioned to protect wood stocks from 'thieves and rogues'

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

The Irish Timber Growers Association (ITGA) has urged forest owners to protect their valuable wood harvest against the growing problem of timber theft.

The spiralling cost of home heating oil has driven a significant increase in demand for firewood in recent years and, with it, the risk of timber theft.

In 2008, Irish homeowners used around 171,000t of firewood, valued at €24.8m. However, by 2011, demand for firewood grew to 214,000t, valued at more than €31m.

Although official statistics on timber theft are not available, there is anecdotal evidence that this growth in demand for firewood has led to increased theft of both standing trees and harvested loads of timber at the roadside.

Donal Whelan of the ITGA said that while timber theft was not a huge problem for growers yet, it was likely to become a serious issue in the coming years.

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"A standard load of timber at the roadside weighs around 27t and, depending on the size of the timber, could be worth anything from €25-75/t," he said.

"That would put the value of a load at €700 at the lowest end and up to €2,000 at the upper end," he added.

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Calculating thieves who know how scarce domestic ash is for hurley making could make off with hurley butts worth a staggering €600/t.

Mr Whelan warned that the issue of timber theft needed to be addressed because of the higher volume of private farm forests that will be harvested in the coming years.

Some 400,000 cubic metres of timber were cut from private farm forests last year but this is set to double to 800,000 cubic metres by 2017. By 2028, over 3.3m cubic metres of timber will be harvested annually from private forests.

"When all this harvesting begins, there will be opportunistic thieves and rogues that will take advantage," he warned.

Adhere

The ITGA has urged all timber growers to adhere to its standardised timber sales despatch system to help protect their timber stacks.

Under this system, a timber buyer or haulier can text the forest owner to tell him/her when collection will be made.

The forest owner then opens the gates for a short specified time for collection and the haulier leaves a docket with the collection details in a sealed box.

Irish Independent