Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Sale of Coillte's Harvesting Rights: Discussion with Society of Irish Foresters

4:30 pm

Mr. Donal Magner:

In Ireland there is a forest authority, the Forest Service, which is housed in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. It is the regulatory body for forestry and it hands out grants. The other body is Coillte, which received a commercial mandate in 1989 to carry out the business of forestry. It does that and we can talk about the way it does so. The Forest Service considers how to increase the forest estate in Ireland. It is currently at 7,000 ha per annum, even though the Government's own strategy is in the region of 20,000 ha per annum. We are well behind that.

The problem is that Ireland has no independent forestry board that takes forestry in its entirety and examines its commercial potential and all the other issues we talked about today. That is a significant negative for Irish forestry and as a result there is the Forest Service that is always talking about planting land and Coillte which manages its own estate. No one out there is making the connection between what is planted in the marketplace and growers. We must change that and establish an independent board to do that. I do not want to get into the idea of quangos because we had the Council on Forest Research and Development, COFORD, where all members gave of their time freely. There is significant desire in the industry to get involved at that level, almost voluntarily, so the sawmills can plan. Also, Coillte will get recognition for the non-wood aspects of forestry while the State can make its own demands on the economic value of the State forestry. There is no independent body, however, that looks at all stakeholders' input in forestry. Such a body might be similar to Bord Bia but looking at forestry.

As Deputy Flanagan pointed out, it is incredible that the sawmill sector, which contributes most to the industry, is not even at the table when a forestry review of the country is being carried out. What is the point in having that review if the people who take the timber and convert it into cash do not have any voice? That is the sort of vision we are looking for.