Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 28 May 2017

Wood fuel production

Joe Barry

Joe Barry

Firewood producers came to the open day from all over Ireland and their presence gave us a wonderful opportunity to exchange ideas and learn from each other.

It was great to see John Jackson along with others from the Donegal Woodland Owners Society there.

John said that, along with their core sales of dry logs, they were now finding a good market for green timber by selling it to homeowners for further seasoning.

This, of course, improves cash flow and allows the purchaser to become more involved in the final end of fuel production.

Selling green thinnings is increasingly popular in rural areas but not a viable option when targeting markets in Dublin and other towns and cities.

Given the difficulty of locating enough suitable broadleaf thinnings for seasoning and processing in our own area, we cannot see the point of parting with this hard-won raw material, which is the basis of the wood fuel operation.

Imported

The junior agriculture minister, Shane McEntee, spoke about the huge amounts of money spent on fuel vouchers, yet all of these go on imported coal and none on firewood.

These alone present a great opportunity for producers, but the wood fuel supplied would, of course, have to be certified under the Wood Fuel Quality Assurance scheme to guarantee the quality of the material.

The moisture content of many logs on sale can vary enormously and wet, unseasoned timber clearly has no place in such a scheme.

The firewood business began here when, having carried out first thinning, my son Peter and I decided we had to make proper use of this potentially valuable material rather than leaving it to rot on the forest floor.

At that time, there were virtually no organised producers and a limited demand from the public, principally because of the difficulty of sourcing good, dry logs delivered in amounts that suited the storage space available and the customers' pockets.

With more people now looking to reduce their fuel bills and the huge increase in the numbers of homeowners using wood-burning stoves, Peter now works full time at both managing the woodland and its products and producing and selling dry hardwood and softwood logs.

Simple

While the business model is relatively simple, the investment in machinery and storage space was substantial and, as a result, the cost of production has to be constantly monitored.

Quality control and marketing were the two essential elements in building a customer base and he now delivers country-wide but principally to the greater Dublin area, under the trade name, Log On Firewood.

He also purchases an increasing amount of hardwood and softwood thinnings from other woodland owners.

This developing outlet for hardwood thinnings and pulp wood benefits all farm foresters as they can now have their woods thinned and, unlike former years, find a ready market for the basic raw material.

Check out www.logonfirewood.ie and also the Donegal Woodland Owners Society website and their newsletter at www.donegalwoodland owners.com

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