Private funding for forestry ‘at risk’

THE Government was warned yesterday that significant private investment in forestry is at risk if it abandons its policy for the industry.

A seminar in Dublin was told that the Irish Government investment in the sector decreased by 27% in 2002-2003 while that of the Finnish Government increased by 40%.

The Irish Government was urged to assure private and company investors who have committed several million euro to the industry that its strategy will not be abandoned because of short-term cash flow difficulties.

George McCarthy, chairman, Irish Forest Industry Chain, said such a progressive move would ensure that an internationally competitive and sustainable forest industry is established and that forestry remains a significant activity in the rural economy.

Mr McCarthy urged the Government to stick to its 1996 commitment to fund the development of 20,000 hectares of new forests per annum.

Joe Kennedy, general manager of Weyerhaeuser-Europe’s MDF facility in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, said the processing industry had invested about €400 million on the basis of sustained raw material supply.

Any uncertainty could have negative effects on investment into the future.

Dr Jouni Suoheimo, secretary general, National Forest Programme in Finland's Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, said his country's forest policy had been developed in partnership with the sector.

Professor John FitzGerald, ESRI, said public policy needs to pay special attention to the sector because the significant return from it in terms of reduced greenhouse gas emissions would take some time to mature.

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