A forestry pilot project in the southwest which is establishing discussion groups for woodland owners is being launched this week.
The initiative is the brainchild of the Limerick and Tipperary Woodland Owners (LTWO) and aims, with the assistance of the Department of Agriculture, to develop the knowledge transfer group concept within the forestry sector.
The pilot project involves 30 growers in Limerick and 30 in Tipperary. A qualified forester will be hired on contract to host the farm walks, advise the growers and act as a facilitator for the discussion group meetings.
The project is being launched tomorrow in Hollyford, Co Tipperary by the Minister of State for Forestry, Andrew Doyle.
Colum Walsh of the LTWO said the project aimed to develop a forestry knowledge base that currently didn't exist among growers.
He pointed out that his father planted marginal land back in the 1990s but there was no tradition of forestry in the family for the previous three generations.
Walsh said there were hundreds of farmers in Limerick and Tipperary with very valuable plantations who are unable to value them or manage then correctly.
He said the pilot project would help build the necessary skills and expertise to enable growers to maximise the returns from their woodland.
"We hope that in time this project will be rolled out to all forestry growers as it has been to the dairy and beef sectors," Walsh said.
Election hustings get underway
The race for 36th presidency of Macra na Feirme is set to heat up next month as countrywide hustings get underway.
Candidates Odile Evans, of Johnstown/Coolgreany Macra on the Wicklow/Wexford border and James Healy from Donoughmore Macra, Co Cork, will state their case and vision to members at assemblies in Leitrim, Mayo, Kilkenny, Limerick, Cork and Meath throughout March.
The events will offer members an opportunity to meet those contesting the position for top office, ahead of election day early in April.
The dates include: Carrick On Shannon March 7, Glanmire March 9, Kilkenny March 13, Claremorris March 15, Limerick March 21 and Navan March 23.
Last week, contenders Odile and James visited clubs in counties Meath and Tipperary taking part in the national talent competition.
The meat processing industry has welcomed the announcement by the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, of enhanced access for Irish beef to Saudi Arabia.
The agreement, which follows high-level discussions between Minister Creed and Saudi officials, will give greater access to processed and cooked meats.
In a statement, Meat Industry Ireland (MII) said progress on any international market access was welcome and that the latest announcement would help some companies to develop their business into the region.
However, the industry body pointed out that the 30-month age restriction that existed on Irish beef exports to Saudi Arabia remained a difficulty.
"The Gulf States were an important outlet for high quality Irish beef in the past but trade over the last decade had been extremely limited due to the restrictive nature of certification conditions, in particular the requirement that beef must only come from under 30 months cattle," an MII spokesman said.
Minister Creed is leading an Irish agri-food trade mission to the Gulf region. Yesterday, the minister met with two of Saudi Arabia's leading dairy companies, Almarai and Al Safi Danone. The meetings focused on areas of further cooperation with Irish companies.
"In 2016 Saudi Arabia was the seventh highest global destination for Irish dairy exports and accounted for over €130m of exports," Minister Creed pointed out.
"Saudi Arabia is a major market for our dairy exports and I am very pleased to note that dairy exports to Saudi Arabia have increased by almost 40pc in the period from 2012 to 2016," he added.