Even though Food Wise 2025 recommended an annual afforestation programme of 25,000ha, from 2014 to 2020, the Department of Agriculture has opted for 7,000 to 8,000ha. Now the IFA, IBEC, forestry companies and timber processors are alarmed that this year’s programme may not even reach 6,000ha.

Last year, the Department’s own advisory body, COFORD, identified an additional half million hectares of land as economically and environmentally suitable for forestry without negatively affecting agricultural production. This includes 220,000ha of productive upland unenclosed sites (3% of the land area). Currently, virtually all of these sites are precluded from the forestry programme even though they have a major role to play in employment and wealth generation.