Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Matt Carthy TD, has called on the Minister for Agriculture to account for the ongoing delays in launching the new Forestry Programme.
The 2014 forestry programme, originally set to lapse in 2020, was extended through to 2022, with a new programme expected to be in place for 2023. However, this has been beset by delays.
Teachta Carthy said:
“The forestry sector in this state has been on its knees for five long years due to licensing backlogs and a drop in afforestation rates to the lowest level since the 1940s.
“This has had a devastating impact on the domestic timber industry. It has also completely undermined Ireland’s climate action targets.
“While a backlog remains regarding licences generally, the department has still failed to hit their unambitious target of 100 licences per week in nearly two-thirds of weeks to date this year. There have been entire months where it has not been met.
“Afforestation stands at just 2,004 hectares so far this year against a stated target of 8,000 hectares. The delay in unveiling a new forestry programme means that this dismal record will continue into 2023 and beyond.
“Rather than delivering a forestry strategy that works for communities, for the industry and for the environment, the government has instead commissioned review after review and report after report. All without meaningful action.
“Foresters had intended to market to farmers at the recent ploughing championship. Instead, with the forestry programme delayed until early 2023, farmers will have already applied to new CAP schemes and put in place their farm plans for the 2023 season. This has effectively wiped out a whole season of potential planting.
“Government failures have resulted in this sector now moving from crisis to catastrophe. Businesses are being forced to destroy countless saplings that will never be planted, and face challenges as to how they are going to pay their staff.
“As we reach the half-way stage of the Dáil term, this is yet another government failure but it is one that will have huge implications for our rural economy and Ireland’s climate action targets.
“Agriculture Minister, Charlie McConalogue, must account for these abysmal failures and immediately outline his proposals to address them.”