Forestry owners who have been fortunate enough to obtain felling licences are securing bumper returns for their timber.
Prices for better-grade timber are running at double the levels paid in 2017, as sawmills battle to secure scarce raw material supplies.
Over €110/t plus VAT has been paid in recent weeks to plantation owners for good-quality saw log timber, with up to €90/t plus VAT paid for pallet log grade product.
A serious logjam in the issuing of felling licences by the Department of Agriculture has slashed timber supplies to Irish sawmills
Plantation owners told the Irish Farmers Journal that pulp grade timber is generally selling for €36/t to €37/t, while stake grade product is making €45/t to €50/t.
The high prices reflect the continuing difficulties in the forestry sector around the issuing of felling licences.
A serious logjam in the issuing of felling licences by the Department of Agriculture has slashed timber supplies to Irish sawmills and resulted in the current surge in prices.
Commenting on the exceptionally high timber prices, Kilkenny-based forestry adviser Paddy Bruton said the ongoing difficulties in the Department was costing plantation owners “a fortune”.
Pointing out that most forestry owners only get to harvest a plantation once in their lifetime, Bruton said it was not acceptable that growers were being hindered in securing the best possible timber prices by the Department’s failings.
A backlog of close to 4,000 forestry-related licence applications is being dealt with by the Department. This includes a mix of forestry road applications, as well as felling and planting licences.
The shortfall in domestic timber supplies has resulted in a doubling of imports from Scotland in recent months
Senior officials informed an Oireachtas committee earlier this year that 16 full-time ecologists and four new inspectors were being appointed to the Department to deal with the delays. It is estimated that less than half of the one million cubic metres of timber which could have been harvested from mature private forests in 2020 was actually cut.
The shortfall in domestic timber supplies has resulted in a doubling of imports from Scotland in recent months.
[...] our timber crisis has been caused by Kildare Street
Meanwhile, director general of the Construction Industry Federation and former IFA president Tom Parlon claimed that delays in the issuing of felling licences was directly affecting the price of timber and adding to the cost of new homes.
The former farm leader said the hike in the cost of construction materials could add €15,000 to the price of an average family home.
“What’s frustrating is that while other input costs have been driven by COVID-19, global demand and Brexit, our timber crisis has been caused by Kildare Street,” he said.
Parlon warned that the Department’s continuing licensing debacle had the potential to affect the number of houses that the construction sector builds this year.
“There is no point announcing billions of euro investment in the summer economic statement or new housing policies if these rudimentary bureaucratic issues are not resolved.”