Farmers look to branch out
Surge of interest in forestry sees figures up 20pc on normal levels, but experts question if boom will increase hectares
A massive increase in the level of farmer interest in forestry has been reported by forestry companies this spring.
Up to date figures on afforestation approvals from the Department of Agriculture show that the area earmarked for forestry during the first three months of the year is running 20pc ahead of normal levels.
Approvals for 3,684ha have been issued by the Department of Agriculture since January, compared to 3,013ha for the same period to March 2013. There has also been an increase in the number of approved applicants, 469 to March this year as compared to 441 to March 2013.
Last year a total of 1,993 approvals were issued covering a land base of 16,230ha.
However, only 6,400ha of these options were taken up by farmers.
Historically, the majority of farmers converting to forestry come from the low profit beef sector. But there is now a trend where farmers, who are handing over their farms to the next generation, will plant a portion of their lands as a retirement policy.
Industry sources stressed this week that there was a marked difference between farmers expressing an interest in forestry and farmers actually planting woodlands.
Marina Conway of Western Forestry Co-Op in Sligo told the Farming Independent that there has been a "definite" increase in the level of interest from farmers in forestry this year.