Farmers and foresters have joined forces to demand that Minister of State for Agriculture, Pippa Hackett, tackles the crisis in the Republic's timber industry.
Licensing delays at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine have slowed tree felling and planting, creating a shortage of timber for sawmills and ultimately housebuilding.
The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) and Forest Industries Ireland (FII) jointly called on Ms Hackett on Tuesday to tackle the crisis. The department’s plan to address the licensing backlog had fallen 50 per cent short of targets set last June, they said.
Both organisations warned that farmers needed confidence that the department would issue licences in “a timely manner”. They also argued that a new licensing regime rendered planting and managing forests on Irish farms too costly to be viable.
Government should introduce a planning support grant to aid farmers in covering the increased cost of applying for forestry licences, they said. FII and the IFA want forestry law changed to axe the requirement that road-building and thinning be licensed.
They also pointed out that just 2,500 hectares of new forest were planted last year, far short of the Government’s target of 8,000.
Vincent Nally, IFA farm forestry chairman, said licensing delays had "incensed" farmers. "We need the Minister to act and reform the system so farmers can have confidence once again in forestry as a land use," he said.
Mark McCauley, director of FII, said the department’s poor administration forestry had contributed to a decline in the industry.