Farm Ireland

Sunday 21 January 2018

Foresters ‘now price-makers’

Martin Ryan

An initiative to merge marketing strengths has almost doubled the income from forestry thinnings for farmer growers in Co Clare.

Farmers who could not get a market for the thinnings are now benefiting from competition for the wood from processorsat prices which are beyond their expectations.

Paddy Donovan, co-ordinator of the Clare Farm Forestry Cluster programme, said that “farmers are now price-makers and not price-takers”, while previously they had difficulty in finding a buyer.

He told a Teagasc forestry demonstration at Inagh, Co Clare, that until the farmers adopted the cluster-marketing initiative “the prices that the farmers were being offered would not pay to do a first thinning, because they would be losing money”.

“I was even amazed at the prices which were tendered for thinnings and the difference between the tender prices when the farmers came together in clusters to market,” he added.

“We compiled an inventory of the timber on offer, and sent it out to a number of buyers and sawmills. Sixteen people came to look at the timber and we got 12 bids back.

“The range of prices quoted was amazing. It means that the growers are now in the driving seat with something that the industry wants and in a position to decide the price rather than being a price-taker.”

He confirmed that the bids were €4-8/t for first thinnings, and €10-19/t for seconds. Forestry owner Tom Foudy, who has a well-managed forest at Inagh, said: “Four or five companies came and looked at it. They never came back.

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“I rang some of them and they promised to get back, but did not. Only for the cluster, I had no market.”

Five cluster groups of farmers have now been formed in Co Clare, where one in every six acres is now under forestry. The Clare Wood Energy Project, from which the cluster initiative has developed, was established with LEADER assistance and Teagasc advice, to market wood for heat and pulp.

Mr Donovan said: “Now we have created a market for about 3,000t of conditioned wood each year.

Units for heating under the Clare Wood Energy Project required about 5,000t of green wood per annum and now the animal-bedding market has taken off, adding a market for another 5,000t per annum.”