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Saturday 26 May 2018

Forestry industry expecting storm damage to total €10m

Thomas Cosby stands where about 300 evergreen trees were floored by Storm Darwin at Stradbally Estate, Co. Laois.
Photo: Alf Harvey
Thomas Cosby stands where about 300 evergreen trees were floored by Storm Darwin at Stradbally Estate, Co. Laois. Photo: Alf Harvey

Ken Whelan

Close to €10m damage has been caused to forestry plantations by the recent storms, industry sources have estimated.

Up to 7,000ha of commercial forest were damaged in the storms which battered the country since early January, with counties Clare, Galway, Kerry, Cork ,Wexford and Laois the worst affected regions.

There are also possible issues relating to replanting of fallen trees and the possibility of lost forestry premia. However, clarification on these issues is still awaited from the Department of Agriculture.

"It will be a few weeks before we know the full extent of the damage but we are certainly looking at 5,000ha of woodland being affected by the storms and the final tally may top 7,000ha," said Donal Whelan of the Irish Timber Growers Association.

It is estimated that the value of 7,000ha could be close to €40m, however, not all of the timber in these forests will be lost.

Most of the 'wind blow' wood can be salvaged though the wood quality may be inferior.

Uprooted trees can be processed by sawmills in the normal way but the timber from broken trees may have to be recycled for other less lucrative uses such as wood pellets, wood pulp and fire wood.

IMBALANCE

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"The amount of trees brought down by the storms will produce an imbalance in supply when processed. The storms will have an affect on prices this year but the sector is in a robust condition at the moment. Sawmill prices in Ireland last year were as good as prices during the Celtic Tiger boom," Mr Whelan pointed out.

"The demand for wood pellets, pulp and fire wood is growing rapidly as is the use of wood in biomass. The co-fuel energy plant in Edenderry is also looking to the forestry sector for increased raw material inputs," Whelan added.

A little more than 10pc of Irish land is under forestry, with the State forestry agency Coillte controlling 53pc of this acreage and rest privately owned.

Some 19,000 farmers have land under forestry which qualifies for forestry premia from the Department.

The acreage damaged by this year's wind blow is equivalent to 1pc of the total land under forestry but, more importantly, it accounts for nearly half the annual timber cut.

Apart from timber quality issues caused by the wind blow, the damage caused by the storms will impact on felling rotation schedules for the plantation owners.

Many may choose to use the damaged trees as part of this year's cut and delay harvesting other areas.

Deferring the rotations will require Department of Agriculture approval but Donal Whelan says that should not be a big problem.

Indo Farming