The increased emphasis on native trees in the new forestry programme will put intense pressure on available stocks of young hardwood trees for planting.

And while forestry companies discounted suggestions of a serious shortage of young trees in 2023, one of the country’s leading nurseries maintained that greater co-operation between the Department of Agriculture and the industry will be needed to maximise plantings next year.

Teige Ryan of None So Hardy – by far the largest supplier of young trees to private forestry firms – said the company was not informed until early October of the plan to shift the national planting policy so decisively towards native species.

“The forestry division within the Department should be aware at this stage that it takes three years to produce nursery stock for the afforestation programme – not two months. There has been no allowance for a phase-in or phase-out period of certain nursery species,” Ryan said.

He said he expects an obvious lift in demand for native species, and this will affect demand for commercial species such as spruce.

Ryan claimed that these difficulties were compounded by the Department’s decision to increase the broadleaf component within commercial plantations from 15% to 20%.

“All our saleable stock for this year are in production since April 2020 and sown in accordance with market demand at that time; so for the Department to so dramatically influence species demand now leaves the nursery very exposed,” he said.

Marina Conway, CEO of the Western Forestry Co-op, told the Irish Farmers Journal it has concerns that there won’t be enough native broadleaves to undertake planting in the spring.

“There has been a strong focus on native planting in recent years but there are concerns that tree supply to match demand will not be available,” she said.

Meanwhile, John Gallinagh of Finn Valley Nurseries said demand for native species had been fuelled by the new ACRES programme.

He said reduced output of young trees due to the overall drop in forestry plantings in recent years has added to the forestry sector’s overall supply difficulties.

Any shortage of stocks will also be negatively impacted by Brexit, as the importation of supplies of young trees from Britain will not be an option for nurseries this year.