Wednesday 24 January 2018

Hurley maker looks abroad as ash import ban hits hard


ONE OF the county's most prominent hurley makers is now looking towards the continent for his milling operation following the identification of the serious tree disease Ash Dieback in forests in Ireland.

The arrival of Chalara Fraxinea - more commonly known as Ash Dieback - in the country has prompted the Department of Agriculture to impose strict new regulations on importing ash into the country and has Philip Doyle of L'Ash Go Leor based on Forth Mountain looking further afield to mill the ash he needs to make hurls.

Philip, along with a number of leading hurley-makers met with Shane McEntee, Minister of State at the Dept. of Agriculture with responsibility for Food, Horticulture and Food Safety, and representatives from the Department of Agriculture last week over the issue.

It's just over a month since the first reported Irish case of ash dieback, which is a rampant, fungal disease that can effectively spread like wildfire.

The arrival of this disease onto Irish shores comes as a blow to hurley manufacturers. Around 350,000 hurleys are manufactured in this country every year - about 65 per cent of which are made from imported ash.

As one of the biggest hurley makers in country and one of the main suppliers of boards to the ash hurl making industry, Philip also has a saw mills at his Forth Mountain base where he imports logs, mills them and sells on the boards to hurley makers across Wexford and all around the country.

However, following the identification of Ash Dieback, Philip is no longer able to import the logs he needs to make hurls. At the moment cut logs are lying on the ground in England and Holland that Philip cannot import.

'The ash supplies we have in the Irish state forests are insufficient to meet demands, along with that Coillte won't allow suppliers like myself into their woods to cut trees and mill them into boards. They supply the boards directly and the quality is not as good as what we can get abroad,' explained Philip.

The Department of Agriculture has passed legislation to ban the importation of all young ash plants and seeds from any infected area, extending that to a ban on any ash wood not already de-barked and sufficiently dried.

This legislation has effectively closed down Philip's milling operation. Consequently, Philip is working on establishing a milling operation on the continent. However, he has had to temporarily lay off three staff members.

'The problem at the minute is we cannot get these ash planks or boards in the country so we are working off existing stock from last year. Being a cottage industry, many hurley makers cannot afford to stock up on huge supplies, so most hurley makers will not have a supply ready for next season,' Philip explained.

According to Philip milling logs for hurls is an art form and he is now in the process of training a team in Holland to mill these boards correctly.

A large supply of ash has been secured and Philip explained that these boards will have to be kiln dried to international standards before they can be brought into Ireland.

'In the long run it will work out okay,' said Philip. 'In the next six months while suppliers like myself adjust, there will be a shortage of supply of hurls,' he added.

However, despite the difficult winter so far for hurley makers, Philip has stressed that he is still open for business.

'In the New Year we hope to have a large supply of ash available for ourselves and other hurley makers,' said Philip.

'We have gotten over scarcities of ash before. It is not new to us, we have gotten through it before and we will get through it again,' he added.

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