Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Senator Pippa Hackett, is welcoming the introduction of significant new measures by Scottish Forestry that is intended to protect Irish trees from pest infestation.
More stringent certification of coniferous roundwood (spruce) from the Pest Free Area (PFA) in Scotland being imported to Ireland is to be put in place.
The threat is posed by the bark beetle that could destroy forests in Ireland worth an estimated €30M Euros by the Limerick Tipperary Woodland Owners Group. The changes meant that imports to Ireland can now only come from a smaller area within the Scottish Pest Free Area. The new buffer zone is set at 35km around the known Pest Free Area and no phytosanitary certificates will be issued for roundwood originating within the buffer zone from 1st March 2024.
Any shipments of round wood originating from the buffer zone must arrive in Ireland and have cleared the port / pier before 1 April 2024. After 12 months the buffer zone may be expanded by a further 10 km.
Separately Limerick and Tipperary Woodland Owners(LTWO) are feeling abandoned by the Government, especially farmers with crops impacted by Ash Dieback Disease.
The organisation says the forestry sector is failing due mainly to the performance of the Department of Agriculture Forestry Section led by Minister Pippa Hackett.
The State may achieve forestry planting of 2,000 hectares this year – far short of the Government’s target of 8,000 hectares and a target of 20,000 needed to achieve EU commitments according to the Group.
Ireland may be fined if a land total of 18% under forestry is not ultimately achieved.
Farmers whose crops have failed due to Ash Dieback disease are still waiting on a support scheme from the Department.(The disease was first discovered in Ireland in 2012 and is thought to have been imported into Ireland by ash plants that were sourced abroad.) Regulations around licensing and a general lack of coordination are combining to make land owners unwilling to undertake forestry due to the outcomes for those impacted by Ash Dieback according to Simon White, the Chairperson of the LTWO. Due to delays and low volume of activity in the sector key personnel, equipment and skills are being lost according to Mr White who acknowledged the support of the Oireachtas Joint Agriculture Committee led by Tipperary TD Jackie Cahill but says no progress can be made with a the Department which he claims does not care about or understand forestry and the needs of landowners to have an adequate income.