Exploiting value of forestry vital for Government
With the election thankfully behind us, we can again return to concentrating on how best to survive during the coming decade.
Despite the many idiotic promises we had to listen to during the recent campaign, the next 10 years are going to be really tough -- and let no one think otherwise. But there is little point in continuing with the blame game, for we cannot revisit the past. Far better to now work with the positives and on how we can all co-operate to keep our jobs and businesses, and make our island a green and prosperous place once more.
I use the term 'green' to help illustrate how we should increase our area under forestry without delay. We hear a lot about the green shoots of recovery, and planting more trees with the right species in the right places is a sure way of creating secure rural jobs and establishing forestry-related businesses.
We have a fantastic asset in our land and climate, so let's use it to its full advantage. Trees grow faster here than in any other European country and timber is in short supply. The sawlog we are currently importing from Latvia and Scotland could easily be produced here, as could the wood fuel we import from all over the globe.
To quote from the Fine Gael policy document, Ireland's natural resource in woodlands is not being developed to its full potential.
"Despite ideal growing conditions, biomass production in Ireland remains low with only 9pc of land under forestry. The National Planting Target is 17pc of the land area, however, spending cuts have reduced the planting rate to 7,000ha per annum, rendering this target unobtainable," the document says.
"Forestry is a sector that is recognised as being important for a number of reasons; raw material for the wood sector, fuel for heat, biomass plants, carbon sequestration, and has the potential to act as a significant contribution to family farm incomes."
Fine Gael's plan to merge Bord na Mona and Coillte into a new company called Bioenergy and Forestry Ireland (BFI) and to expand Ireland's position in biomass, is an interesting one. Under the proposed plan, BFI will invest €250m per annum over four years in the sector to hopefully become a global leader in the commercialisation of bio-energy technologies.