The Department of Agriculture’s performance on afforestation licences has been poor, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue admitted to farmers last week.

Speaking at the AGM of the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA), Minister McConalogue conceded that the processing of afforestation licences will have to improve.

“We have been putting more focus into the afforestation licences performance, because the performance in that area has continued to be poor over the last while,” he said.

Afforestation levels dropped to almost 2,000ha last year, well below the 8,000ha target which has been set for the sector.

However, Minister McConalogue said increased resources and manpower were being focused on the licensing issue, both for felling and planting.

He predicted that the increased capacity available to the Forestry Service will result in the backlog in licence applications being “gradually reduced” over the next 12 months.