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Tree planting level collapses back to rate reached in 1936 as frustration grows over forestry licence backlog

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Shipment of 2,500t logs being imported from Scotland to Ireland. Photo: Glennon Brothers

Shipment of 2,500t logs being imported from Scotland to Ireland. Photo: Glennon Brothers

Log imports. Photo: Glennon Brothers

Log imports. Photo: Glennon Brothers

Timber log imports. Photo: Glennon Brothers

Timber log imports. Photo: Glennon Brothers

IFA held a protest in response to the forestry fiasco outside the Convention Centre in Dublin last week. Photo: Finbarr O'Rourke

IFA held a protest in response to the forestry fiasco outside the Convention Centre in Dublin last week. Photo: Finbarr O'Rourke

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Shipment of 2,500t logs being imported from Scotland to Ireland. Photo: Glennon Brothers

The current level of tree planting in Ireland has collapsed back to rates not seen since 1936, the joint managing director of a leading sawmill has warned.

Mike Glennon of Glennon Brothers, a third generation family business established in Longford in 1913 and which directly employs over 250 people in Ireland and 125 indirectly, says his company is now forced to import 2,500t of logs from Scotland every six days to keep its processing plants in Fermoy and Longford operational.

Having been at the coalface of the crisis for two years now, Mr Glennon says he has lost faith in the Department of Agriculture’s ability to solve the fiasco and has called on the Department of the Taoiseach to intervene.

It comes as 150 farmers and sector stakeholders gathered for an IFA protest outside the Dáil last week due to deepening frustration over the Government’s inaction to clear the forestry licence backlog.

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Timber log imports. Photo: Glennon Brothers

Timber log imports. Photo: Glennon Brothers

Timber log imports. Photo: Glennon Brothers

Speaking to the Farming Independent, Mr Glennon said: ”We have a catastrophe in the felling licences crisis.

“In 2019, the Department gave felling licences for 57,000ha, that collapsed to 18,000ha in 2020 – down 39,000ha. Moving forward into 2021, we’re currently at 11,700ha which is only slightly ahead of last year, the worst year in history.

"The Department has issued just 1,200 licences so far this year, a third of the normal run rate, and compounding that, which is the biggest shame of all, is that our afforestation has now collapsed back as far as 1936. We’ve planted just 2,400ha, the lowest number in almost nine decades.

“We’re forced to bring in logs from Scotland every six days to keep the plants running which is not sustainable. At the same time, we have farmers dying to sell their material to us because prices have never been so high.

"These farmers have done everything they were asked, Government asked them to plant trees and they did and now they can’t fell them. There are farmers waiting 12/16/18 months to fell and this is growing into another problem where there will be a shortage of wood to build houses.

"The two issues that Government is focused on is the green agenda and house building. Forestry is an anchor and underpin to both and it’s a shambles.

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Log imports. Photo: Glennon Brothers

Log imports. Photo: Glennon Brothers

Log imports. Photo: Glennon Brothers

"It's incredible to think that a farmer has to get a thinning licence, a felling licence and a licence to build a road on a small plot of land. It doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t operate like that anywhere else in the world.”

Mr Glennon said “radical” intervention is needed. He called for: “a special unit” to be set up in the Department of the Taoiseach to monitor the situation; “a regulatory review” to be carried out as a matter of urgency; and “an amnesty” for farmers waiting more than six months for a licence.

“There is no other sector of agriculture where they will wait for clearance of 12-16-18 months to sell crops, it just makes absolutely no sense.

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IFA held a protest in response to the forestry fiasco outside the Convention Centre in Dublin last week. Photo: Finbarr O'Rourke

IFA held a protest in response to the forestry fiasco outside the Convention Centre in Dublin last week. Photo: Finbarr O'Rourke

IFA held a protest in response to the forestry fiasco outside the Convention Centre in Dublin last week. Photo: Finbarr O'Rourke

"Why should a farmer be forced to miss the market opportunity when prices are at an all-time high after planting trees as requested because the Government can’t process paper.”

IFA Farm Forestry chair Vincent Nally said “we need a guarantee from both agriculture ministers that the backlog will be cleared by the end of the year”.

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"Until we get this guarantee, farmers will maintain the campaign and we will escalate our action. Our forests are being devalued while we wait for the Government to commission review after review. We have had enough.”


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