Government figures show it has taken almost a year to issue felling licences needed to help meet the Republic’s growing demand for timber.
Delays in issuing permits needed to cut, plant and transport trees have squeezed timber supplies, increasing prices for the building material by up to 20 per cent.
Figures released by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in response to a parliamentary question from Kerry Fine Gael TD Brendan Griffin show that it has been taking just short of 12 months to issue felling licences.
The department’s figures state that, up to the end of March, it was taking officials 11.93 months to issue a decision on a felling licence, which is needed to cut trees in the first place.
The numbers also show that a final decision for tree-planting or road permits took more than nine months. Irish law requires licences to build forest roads to transport logs.
Coillte chief executive Imelda Hurley last week highlighted delays in this area when the State forestry company published annual results showing profits had halved to €29 million as a result of permit hold-ups.
Builders use timber in house construction among other things. Local shortages of and growing international demand for timber are forcing up prices. In a recent Construction Industry Federation survey, members said that they were having difficulty sourcing the material and reported that charges had risen 20 per cent in some cases.
Pat Glennon, joint managing director of sawmills business Glennon Brothers, said the industry could not tolerate the poor performance any longer. He argues that forestry's green credentials are stronger than most other industries and it supplied the key housing sector as well as export markets.
Mr Glennon described Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Pippa Hackett’s Project Woodland strategy, meant to tackle the sector’s problems, as a solo run.
He also dismissed claims by the industry’s critics that the sector focused on non-native fast-growing evergreen species. “We’re not about wall-to-wall conifers,” he said. Mr Glennon said the commercial timber produced by conifers helped fund the cost of planting native hardwood species.