Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 26 March 2017

Timber growers urged to insure woods against fire

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Forestry owners are being advised to insure their valuable timber crops against potentially devastating fire damage in the coming months.

Even though the legal period for controlled burning of vegetation on uncultivated land closes on February 28, the risk of uncontrolled fires is too great to ignore, Teagasc forestry expert Steven Meyen has warned.

Uncontrolled fires caused more than €7.5m worth of damage to Irish forestry in spring last year, making 2011 one of the worst years on record for fire losses.

In the past two years, more than 1,300ha of private forestry and 1,500ha of Coillte forestry has been destroyed by fire.

However, last year was by far the worst, with almost 1,000ha of Coillte forestry lost and a further 600ha of private forests destroyed. The worst affected was Co Donegal, which accounted for around 60pc of the total.

One million cubic metres of timber will have to be imported, representing four months of production in Irish sawmills, the Irish Business and Employers Confereration estimates.

Despite the potentially ruinous cost of fire damage, the majority of private forests are not insured against fire.

Mr Meyen warned that the Reconstitution of Woodland Scheme no longer covers fire losses and urged forest owners to put private insurance in place.


"There are a number of effective insurance policies on offer," he said. "Policies may cover loss of timber value, cost of replanting, fire brigade charges, public liability and employer's liability. Shop around for the most suitable.

"Re-establishment costs can vary from €1,500 to €6,000/ha, depending on the age and species of tree.

Value

"A 10-year-old Sitka spruce plantation is worth only €2,000 to €3,000/ha. Fast forward 10 years and the value of the same plantation is heading for €6,000/ha. At 35 years of age, timber value is now in the range of €14,000 to €16,000/ha.

"Fire brigade call-out charges range from €5,000 to €25,000," added Mr Meyen.

The annual insurance premium reflects this increase in timber value. The cost of insuring 10ha of five-year-old Sitka spruce is around €350, which includes the cost of replanting, loss of timber value, fire brigade charges, public liability and employer's liability. This rises to around €400 for a 15-year-old plantation.

Meanwhile, Shane McEntee, Minister of State with responsibility for forestry at the Department of Agriculture, recently launched a comprehensive 42-page guideline document for farmers who wish to burn vegetation safely and within the requirements of the law, as part of their land management regime.

The document, titled 'The Prescribed Burning Code of Practice -- Ireland', is available from the Department of Agriculture (www.agriculture.gov.ie) and the The Irish Forestry and Forestry Products Association (www.iffpa.ie).

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