THE forestry sector has warned that Government cuts in the sector are going to cost jobs at a time when every action should be taken to protect employment.
It called on the Government to reverse planned cuts to the current planting rate of 7,000 hectares per annum.
The Irish Forestry and Forestry Products Association (IFFPA), a business sector within IBEC, also urged the Government to increase the planting rate to 10,000 ha/annum to which it was previously committed.
Otherwise, IFFPA, a business sector within IBEC, warned there is a risk of up to 2,000 jobs being lost in the indigenous economy
It said the forestry industry, comprising growing, harvesting and processing of forest products, makes a significant contribution to the Irish economy, with output in 2008 of €1.89 billion.
However, despite this contribution, the Department of Agriculture allocates just 3% of its budget to the industry.
IFFPA director Marian Byron said recent budgetary estimates indicate a dramatic cut in the already paltry planting rate allocation of 7,000 ha/annum.
This planned cut of up to €20 million will result in nurseries having to dig up saplings, planted on foot of Government commitments, and being unable to maintain employment.
In addition, she said the wood processing sector will lose access to the raw material on which they rely.
Ms Byron said both the nursery and wood processing sectors have struggled to remain in business. They have invested in new technology, creating new markets and products to compensate for the collapse in the national construction market.
“The bottom line is that trees need to be planted, forests need to be managed, roads for thinning and harvesting need to be built, and this all requires funding,” she said.
Ms Byron said forestry plays an important part in the national and rural economy.
Forests remove CO2 from the atmosphere, provide a valuable ecosystem, and a renewable energy resource.
If the Government does not commit the required funding for private growers to plant trees, Ireland is unlikely to meet its Kyoto commitments, the wood processing sector will grind to a halt and jobs will be lost, she said.
Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association Rural Development Committee chairman John O’Donnell said the cuts will pose problems in the sector affecting both planting targets and thinning operations.
He said this move is a serious blow to the industry at a time when wood prices paid to timber growers have more than doubled over the last six months.
Mr O’Donnell said the Government is under pressure to meet renewable energy targets and needs to consider the potential of the forestry sector and the need to ensure all planting targets are met and not jeopardised in any manner.
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