our funding deserves to escape chop
With another hairshirt Budget looming early next month, all manner of organisations and industries are lobbying hard to persuade the Government that theirs is a special case and therefore their budgets should not be cut. Unfortunately, few will escape unscathed.
The forestry sector can certainly make a legitimate claim to special-case status. The reduction in the forest road grants at the beginning of the year is bound to reduce the number of plantations that will now be thinned even though they may require it.
Now rumours of a planned 7pc cut in the forest premium are gathering momentum, it is high time to detail some of the reasons to maintain the forestry budget.
Afforestation represents a permanent change in land use, and therefore involves a very major decision on the part of the landowner.
Forestry is one of the longest term of all investments made by individuals, organisations, and indeed the State. Decisions taken today have direct consequences well into the next generation, and even minor tinkering with the forestry budget can have a very damaging effect on confidence in the sector.
The afforestation programme has still not recovered from the 8pc cut in the forest premia in spring 2009 and there is a clear relationship between maintaining annual premiums, planting and confidence in the forestry industry as a whole.
The entire forest industry, comprising the growing, harvesting and processing of forest products, makes a significant and growing contribution to our economy. The total output in 2010 was of the order of €2.2bn.
Almost 11pc of the land area is now under forest, supporting a vibrant and export-orientated forest products sector. More than 80pc of the output from our panelboard mills is exported, along with over 70pc of our sawn timber production.