The IFA has again called for a temporary suspension to the importation of timber from Scotland until a full review of the biosecurity measures for spruce bark beetles is undertaken.

“We need the Government to take this issue more seriously as the biggest threat to Irish forests is from the eight toothed European spruce bark beetle and the great spruce bark beetle,” IFA farm forestry chair, Jason Fleming has said.

“We do not agree with any suspension of the importation of logs from Scotland,” said John Murray, director of the Murray Timber Group and chair of the Irish Timber Council (ITC) the body that represents all the major sawmills in Ireland.

“It is the considered opinion of the ITC that there is a comprehensive biosecurity monitoring process in place both in Scotland and Ireland to ensure that the bark beetles are not introduced to Ireland,” he added.

“All imports into Ireland must be compliant with the EU plant health regulation, and importers must be registered as professional operators [and] similarly, any action Ireland takes in response to threats from pests must also be compliant with EU plant health regulations and the International Plant Protection Convention,” said Barry Delaney, director of forestry in the Department of Agriculture.

“Importers in Ireland are prohibited from importing roundwood from areas known to be affected by quarantine bark beetle species,” he added.

The only area internationally where imports into Ireland of coniferous roundwood with bark is permitted, is from a specific UK government authority assigned as a pest free area (PFA) in the west of Scotland.”

He said the Department is conscious of recent developments with bark beetles in Britain, found outside the PFA.

“The Department has been engaging directly with Scottish forestry authorities, Northern Ireland and the European Commission to ensure that the pest free status of the island of Ireland is maintained,” he said.

“All imports from the PFA must be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate which is issued by the UK government authority, in accordance with the International Plant Protection Convention.

“It is in the interest of the ITC’s members to protect the Irish wood processing industry, so whatever is required, we will not be found wanting, but the actions must be measured and fact based,” John Murray said.

Jason Fleming acknowledged the work carried out by the Department, but “once the beetle is present in Scotland, it is impossible to claim that any area can be classed as a ‘pest free’,” he claimed.

“Our first priority must be to prevent a spruce bark beetle outbreak in Ireland and protect our valuable spruce forests,” he said.