Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture Matt Carthy TD has said the recently published forestry figures expose a department that is ‘strangling a forestry sector it should be fostering.’
Teachta Carthy said:
“A proper forestry strategy should be good for the environment, good for the economy and good for local communities. In Ireland, we have a set of policies that deliver none of those things.
“The forestry sector has been in utter chaos for a number of years and this government, after over a year in office, is proving wholly incapable of addressing the challenges.
“At the start of the month, Minister of State Pippa Hackett told the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee that reduced productivity within the department relating to the issuing of licenses was the result of a new 30-day consultation process that would be negated during August.
“Considering the nature and the duration of the crisis, the sector did not have a ‘free month’ to gift to the government, but they should have at least expected that this period would have led to a substantial improvement in terms of delivery.
“However, Week 4 forestry figures show that August was actually less productive than July.
“Licences granted for both new afforestation and felling were just over half of what they were for August 2020.
“It seems that the department is incapable of addressing one issue without creating another.
“Much time is spent in the agricultural community discussing the need to meet emission targets – farmers are up for this challenge assuming that they are treated fairly and adequately supported.
“Afforestation can play an important role in this but it is increasingly disheartening to see government continue to utterly fail.
“While government has commissioned a report on how licensing is handled in other EU states, this itself raises the question of, if a solution is found elsewhere, why weren’t our own department competent enough to determine this in advance of implementing those EU regulations supposedly responsible for the delays?
“What this government seems to be failing to grasp is that even once the licensing issue is resolved, they will face an uphill battle trying to convince farmers to enter the sector due to a legitimate perception that poor governance will mean that in 10, 20, or 30 years’ time if regulations change or new related disease reach our shores, they alone will be left holding the can again.
“Sinn Féin has facilitated government legislation and initiative despite reservation in order to provide for a future for our domestic forestry sector and environment.
“The department, though, has consistently squandered the goodwill from opposition and stakeholders.
“Ultimately, responsibility for this lies with the Minister for Agriculture. I have written to the Chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine to request that an urgent hearing be held with the Minister at the soonest opportunity on this subject.”