The group representing Ireland’s private forestry consultants has told the European Commission that Teagasc’s provision of forestry advisory services is an “abuse of a dominant position” to the “detriment” of private advisers.

The Association of Irish Forestry Consultants (AIFC) lodged an official complaint with the Commission claiming that the organisation, structure and funding of forestry advisory services within the State is in breach of EU competition law.

These deficiencies in the forestry advice delivered to farmers and landowners is contributing to the missing of afforestation targets, according to the consultants.

Statutory powers

The private advisers stated that the provision of forestry advice lies outside of the statutory powers granted to Teagasc under the legislation that established it, other than in cases where the advice relates to trees as part of a farming enterprise or the establishment of shelter belts.

This statutory restriction prevents the access of non-farming landowners to Teagasc forestry advice services, they said.

The AIFC argued that the provision of a comprehensive forestry advisory service would be possible were it not for the market disruption caused by the “uncompetitive nature of the forestry advisory services being provided by Teagasc”.

Also contended by the AIFC was the legality of inviting forestry scheme applicants to allow the State to pass the contact details of the scheme applicants on to Teagasc.

This scheme application option was cited as an “uncompetitive agreement” by the private consultants in their complaint.