Department rules out restrictions on land sales to corporations
The Department of Agriculture confirmed it will not move to introduce restrictions on the sale of agricultural land.
It follows advances by the EU to combat large-scale acquisition of farmland by investment funds.
The European Commission has stated farmland is a "special asset" and countries can introduce restrictions to help limit price speculation and preserve local communities. However, the Department stated "very little" land comes up for sale in Ireland.
Its analysis of applications for forestry plantings show foreign investment funds are buying very little bare land for forestry.
Out of 6,500ha planted last year, only 126ha was planted by corporate entities.
John Roche, Managing Director of The Forestry Company, said they were involved in forestry in almost every county and the "vast majority" of their clients are farmers. He said there has not been a sharp increase in new planting but an increased focus on management of forest that was planted in the 90s and later.
"A lot are getting an income from the timber now. There is a realisation among growers that there is more to it than just the premium," he said, with the typical annual premium around €206/ac for conifers or Sitka spruce. "There would have been a perception that you plant land just for the premium, but farmers are realising there is income from thinning and significant income from clearfell down the line."
Gerry Loftus from the INHFA stated a large amount of foreign financial institutions are buying up land to avail of tax free incentives.
Mr Loftus said farmland should be treated as a "special asset" and the State should put proposals in place.
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