Thursday 29 September 2016

Timber production is set to double

Steven Meyen

Published 16/09/2015 | 02:30

Steven Meyen
Steven Meyen

National timber production is forecast to double to over seven million cubic metres by 2028, with almost all of the increase coming from the private sector.

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With such an outlook, it is no wonder that 200 forest owners with trees coming up for thinning turned up for Talking Timber.

This is the fourth year now that Teagasc has organised, in association with the Forest Service and the Irish timber industry, such a regional timber marketing event.

The event started with a fascinating outdoor display of timber logs of various sizes and quality, facilitated by the Irish Forestry and Forest Products Association.

John Ryan of Murray's sawmill in Co Galway explained precisely what Irish sawmills are looking for as he compared different logs, pointing out blemishes and explaining how to recognise good quality trees.

He also pointed out that the largest trees are not necessarily more valuable. He suggested that trees with a diameter at breast height of 26 to 30cm tend to be the most valuable timber category.

As the session moved back indoors other topics were discussed ranging from planning for thinning, forest regulations, factors affecting timber prices, new developments in private timber price databases to the first hand experience of a local forest owner.

Noel Kennedy, forestry advisor with Teagasc, provided an overview of what is involved when planning for first and second thinning. He emphasised that it is important for forest owners to become more involved in the planning and management of the thinning of their forests.

He also stressed that to maximise returns, it is essential to ensure that the thinning is supervised and carried out correctly.

It is essential to have a felling licence in place before tree felling takes place.

Seppi Höna of the Forest Service (DAFM) explained that a General Felling Licence is usually valid for five years.

He also gave details of grant aid available such as the Forest Road Scheme and the Thinning and Tending Scheme. The latter scheme is to assist in the tending and thinning of young, grant aided broadleaf forests.

Marina Conway of the Western Forestry Co-Op discussed what influences timber prices.

Haulage costs

"Distance to mill, the quality of the timber, current demand, if it is a thinning or clearfell operation, the size of the operation and the way the timber is sold are important local price issues," she said.

Haulage costs play an important part in what timber buyers can pay for the timber. She suggested "to try to sell your pulp locally as it is too expensive to haul over long distances".

Ms Conway, who presented on behalf of the IBEC-affiliated Irish Forestry and Forest Products Association (IFFPA), also provided some interesting figures on the Irish timber supply. In 2013, just over three million tonnes of timber were harvested, with 86pc from Coillte and around 176,000 tonnes from the private sector.

The shortfall was imported from Scotland with around 5,000/t of timber imported each week into Ireland from Scotland in 2013.

Donal Whelan of the Irish Timber Growers Association outlined an exciting initiative to provide private timber price information to all private forest owners.

He explained that when farmers are marketing agricultural produce, they rely on price information from reliable sources and any successful venture will have good market information on prices paid in their business.

Likewise, for timber growers, it is vital that they have good information on the current markets and prices being paid for roundwood. It is also important that this price information is both reliable and independent.

"It is important for private growers to develop their own database as Coillte prices always exclude all their pulp material," he added.

If you weren't able to make last week's 'Talking Timber' event in Mayo, today's event is taking place in the Mount Wolseley Hotel in Tullow, Co Carlow. Registration is at 9.30am.

Steven Meyen is a Teagasc forestry advisor email: steven.meyen@teagasc.ie

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