In theory, the launch of a new €1.3bn Forestry Programme should be welcomed by the nurseries who will produce plants for afforestation, reforestation, and various support schemes within the new programme.

Further optimism should derive from Government commitments and the National Climate Action Plan (NCAP) targets to afforest 8,000ha of new land annually to mitigate climate change. Recent annual planting levels of only 2,200ha have seriously threatened nursery survival in Ireland.

Planting trees has never had greater significance in terms of CO2 removal, biodiversity enhancement, rural employment, and future timber supply.

Under this Government, though, all domestic markets to sell plants have shrunk considerably each year. Never have our nurseries been forced to destroy so much surplus stock.

Existing barriers will need to be removed if forestry activity is to be stimulated and not remain suppressed in the coming planting season. Central to this will be:

  • A Government commitment to issue an adequate supply of licences to the private sector for afforestation, roads and felling within appropriate timelines.
  • A licensing plan setting out targets for Q4 this year and for 2024 should be published so the industry has an indication of what to expect.
  • A purposeful ash dieback scheme to commence this autumn. This would create a real opportunity to deliver plants to existing ash dieback sites for replanting.
  • Ash support scheme

    An attractive Ash support scheme will also encourage farmer participation in the new programme which in turn will increase plant demand.

    A positive addition is the introduction of much needed supports for the forest nursery sector in the new programme, and it is hoped this approval process is efficient.

    Forestry in Ireland begins with nursery seed sowing and production – this makes it the most vital link in the seed to sawdust forestry supply chain.

    However, without sufficient customer demand for our plants, investments made by nurseries and grant support from Government will have been squandered.

    Finally, for the good of the nursery sector and for the redevelopment of the forest industry, an independent State Forestry Development Agency needs to be established.

    Teige Ryan.

    Teige Ryan is chair of SEEFA (the Social, Economic, Environmental Forestry Association) and director of None So Hardy (Forestry) Ltd.