The continuing gridlock in the forestry licensing regime is putting hundreds of jobs in the sector at risk.

Reacting to the issuing of just three afforestation licences last week, private foresters warned that businesses in the industry were grinding to a halt.

“Minister [for Agriculture] Charlie McConalogue’s department has produced three afforestation licences in a full week. This will undoubtedly result in more job losses for private nurseries, foresters, and contractors,” the Social Economic Environmental Forestry Association (SEEFA) claimed.

SEEFA member Teige Ryan of Wicklow nursery None So Hardy said the issuing of just three afforestation licences in a week highlighted the serious problems facing forestry.

“Three licences won’t keep a whole lot of people active,” Ryan commented.

Ryan maintained that there had been a mass exodus of foresters and contractors from the private forestry sector over the last three years as the area planted plummeted to just 2,000ha, having stood at 6,500ha in 2016.

Contractors and foresters will not be attracted back into the private forestry sector unless there is “continuity of work”, he said.

According to the latest forestry dashboard, which tracks activity in the sector, just 15 afforestation licences were issued in October, with 22 issued so far in November.

A total of 163 felling licences have been issued to private forestry companies over the last two months, with a further 198 issued to Coillte.

In other forestry news, €1.6m has been granted by the Department of Agriculture to 42 groups for forestry promotion projects.

The successful projects focused mainly on engaging with farmers, existing forest owners and other landowners.