Written answers

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Forestry Sector

Photo of Matt ShanahanMatt Shanahan (Waterford, Independent)
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855. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if an organisation (details supplied) recommends increasing afforestation rates to 16,000 hectares annually; if so, the reason for these recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22791/22]

Photo of Charlie McConalogueCharlie McConalogue (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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The COFORD Council is a stakeholder platform who advise my Department on issues related to the development of the forest sector in Ireland. In their recent report ‘Forests and wood products, and their importance in climate change mitigation’ COFORD advised that 16,000 ha of annual afforestation is required if Ireland is to achieve the government target of 18% forest cover by 2050.

The current Forestry Programme which commenced in 2015 and has been extended to the end of 2022 provides significant supports for afforestation. This includes grants and premiums for 12 different planting categories to promote a good species mix and covers 100% of the cost of establishing a forest.

As the deputy may be aware, afforestation levels have been declining in recent years and Project Woodland was established in February 2021 to ensure that a new impetus is brought to woodland creation in Ireland. A national shared vision for the future of Ireland's trees and forests and a new Forestry Strategy are currently being developed. This new Forest Strategy will underpin a new Forestry Programme for the period 2023 - 2027. Supports will be included in the next Forestry Programme to incentivise afforestation. I am committed to working with all our stakeholders to substantially increase our afforestation rates over the next decade.

I am aware that stakeholders, including COFORD, are calling for afforestation targets in excess of 8,000 ha. However, I am also aware that afforestation is a voluntary land use choice for landowners. Any target that is set must be realistic and we have set an ambitious target which is a significant step up from existing levels achieved in recent years.


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