Approximately 40% of the total forest area in Ireland is owned and managed by farmers, with the majority of plantations reaching production in the coming decade.

Forecasts show that timber production is to grow from 3.1 million m3 in 2017 to 7.9 million m3 by 2035, with almost all of the increased volume coming from farmers.

The mobilisation of this resource is not without significant challenges. Many factors influence a farmer’s decision to harvest these, including the size of the forest, the level of bureaucracy, lack of knowledge, investment in infrastructure, available harvesting technologies, transportation, etc.

The IFA’s five-point plan to revitalise the farm forestry sector emphasised the importance of producer organisations to overcome some of the barriers to mobilisation.

The peer-to-peer support offered by producer organisations has proven to be hugely successful in mobilising private sector resource elsewhere in Europe.

Budget support

The IFA’s budget 2019 submission is looking for the introduction of supports for existing forest producer groups to help them create the necessary scale to optimise efficiencies in the supply chain and ensure the long-term sustainability of the group and supply.

Properly functioning forest producer organisations are the key to improving efficiency and building further capacity within the sector to satisfy the growing demand for biomass and ensure the long-term sustainability of the sector.

The IFA advocates a network of centralised biomass trading centre, regional service stations that supply top-quality wood fuels

If bioenergy generation is to become widespread, then biomass must be readily available and cost-competitive.

Currently in Ireland, the biomass market is informal and often supply and demand do not easily match.

To ensure an uninterrupted supply, as well as greater control in fuel quality, the IFA advocates a network of centralised biomass trading centre regional service stations that supply top-quality wood fuels, operated by forest producer organisations.

A centralised system would enable improved control of the procurement process.

Biomass could be stored at the centre and processed during the winter season when the demand for fuel is high and working conditions at the forest may be more difficult.

Supporting the establishment of the network of biomass trade and logistic centres offers farmers and rural communities significant new business opportunities to not just supply biomass, but to become heat contractors.

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Turning trees into cash

Bright future for on-farm renewables