'It is extremely worrying' - UK only realistic market for trees

Over half of Irish sawmills’ output is exported
Over half of Irish sawmills’ output is exported
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

THE Irish timber industry has to make itself Brexit proof as diversifying into markets other than the UK is not a realistic option.

Coillte CEO Fergal Leamy told Commissioner Phil Hogan and delegates at the recent Timber Industry Brexit Forum in Dublin that since Ireland exports almost 80pc of its output to the UK and isn't suited to other markets, it's important that Ireland approaches Brexit in a solution-based manner.

"We have 40,000 truck movements between Ireland and the UK each year and in the context of Brexit that's very important.

"It's not a case of pivoting towards other markets because the product we produce is ideally suited towards UK and Irish markets and the potential for markets outside UK and Ireland is very limited. Most of the risk is yet to come in terms of trading difficulties that we might see in the next while if we don't address this in a positive frame of mind," he said.

Mr Leamy added that Irish forestry provides more jobs than Facebook, PayPal and Linkedin combined in Ireland and that it's important that these jobs are protected as it is rural- based employment.

Members of the forum presented Commissioner Hogan with a number of recommendations to help protect the timber industry.

Some of the recommendations included sending Irish officials to Norway and Sweden to see how their cross-border trade works and allowing for interchangeable customs officials.

John Murray of Murray Timber Group welcomed the recommendations as he said he is "extremely worried" that Brexit will bring about market failure as seen in 2008 when the construction crash in Ireland collapsed the timber market here.

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"We wouldn't like to see that situation again where we had genuine market failure... It is extremely worrying. We have great concerns as we're wholly dependent on UK access. I do think the obstacles will be overcome though," he said.

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