Forest owners awaiting a felling licence to harvest their crop are facing delays between two and three years, the Forest Owners Co-operative Society has said (FOCS).

There is now a huge backlog of licences that will take time to clear, FOCS CEO Dr Kathryn O’Donoghue warned.

However, she said greater communication and engagement between those on the ground and the forestry service in the Department of Agriculture was a crucial first step.

“One of the key things to have a look at is the strategy as to how the forest service are processing the applications in conjunction with the environmental section,” O’Donoghue told the Irish Farmers Journal.

I had one man come into me that’s waiting four years for a licence

“There’s lots of questions around streamlining the mechanism in which the licences are handled.” FOCS estimates that the average grower is exposed to losses as high as €100,000 and more in situations where trees may lose condition or suffer wind blow if left unharvested. “I had one man come into me that’s waiting four years for a licence. He’s extremely worried at this point in time because he feels that his timber is gone too big for the sawmill and that it’s losing value.”

There are now increasing volumes of finished timber being imported into Ireland to fill the gap in the market.

O’Donoghue said it was more important than ever that the industry, which employs some 15,000 people, is supported and that everything possible is done to keep jobs in rural communities.

FOCS is seeking a meeting with Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to resolve any impediments in the process that has “reduced the flow of licences to a trickle”.

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