Fears of a major hurley shortage due to restrictions imposed following the breakout of a disease affecting ash trees across Europe have been averted.
The State-owned forestry company Coillte has said it will bring forward the harvesting of ash trees to ensure that more than 40,000 hurley planks will be supplied to hurley-makers over the winter.
New ash import restrictions introduced by the Department of Agriculture to prevent the spread of the disease had raised concern among makers of the traditional camán that there would be a major shortage of hurleys over the coming months.
Under the new regulations, only ash known to come from areas free of the ash-dieback disease or if it is kiln-dried ash or had its bark removed will be allowed into the Republic. Similar measures have been imposed in the North.
Hurley-makers have expressed concern that such restrictions and the requirement to obtain “plant passports” would make the cost of hurleys prohibitive.
Junior agriculture minister Shane McEntee said he understood the difficulties some hurley-makers were facing in the short term in trying to change their supply arrangements.
Around 2,100 cu m of ash wood is required each year by hurley makers — the equivalent of 360,000 hurleys. Approximately 76% of ash wood supplies have to be imported.
Mr McEntee said that hurley-making contributed an estimated €5m to the economy each year.
However, he acknowledged that hurley-makers would have to continue to rely on imported ash wood over the medium term, as Ireland will not be self-sufficient in ash wood until 2020.
Coillte managing director Gerard Murphy said it had already begun harvesting ash in one of its forests in Co Westmeath, while several other locations have also been identified for harvesting over the coming months.
He confirmed the latest inspections had indicated that forests under Coillte’s control remained free of the ash-dieback disease.
The first evidence of ash-dieback in Ireland was discovered on a farm in Co Leitrim in October which led to the destruction by cutting and burning of some 30,000 trees in Leitrim, Galway, Tipperary and Meath.
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