Forestry cuts hit Laois Sawmills
CUTS of up to €20 million in forestry budgets could devastate the local forestry industry with one Laois based company already warning that its forty staff could be put on a three day week due to log shortages.
Jim McNamara of Laois Sawmills, based at Ballymacken outside Portlaoise, said any cuts in the afforestation capital budget will have a serious impact on their business. "There is a scarcity of logs in Ireland. Capacity at sawmills is outstripping the volume available," he said.
Funding cuts will also lead to less funding for forestry roads. "This will mean that the timber can't get to roadside," Mr McNamara warned.
As well as reduced hours for staff at Laois Sawmills cutbacks will also affect hauliers and those employed in the forestry industry, Mr McNamara said.
The IFA stressed that afforestation is a very labour intensive operation and a reduction in an annual planting programme from 7,500 hectares in 2010 to an estimated 2,000 hectares next year will result in the loss of over 1,300 rural jobs, both direct and indirect.
This claim was backed up by Mr McNamara who said that they have already reduce staff to a three day week in April and May.
IFA Farm Forestry Chairman Pat Hennessy said the Government must re-think its plan to cut the afforestation capital budget by €20m as it will impact on rural jobs and deprive the Irish environment of a valuable carbon sink.
"Despite setting an annual planting target of 10,000 hectares in the Renewed Programme for Government last October, it now appears the reduced budget will fund less than 2,000 hectares," he said.
IFA believes about 18,000 farmers are involved in the forestry industry, with additional employment being provided for hauliers etc.
Mr Hennessy said the cuts demonstrate a lack of understanding of the strategic importance of forestry to Ireland's economic recovery. "Forests are central to the future of our green economy. Forestry is our only carbon positive sector and our largest biomass resource. Government must provide a framework for the expansion of the sector, not act as an obstacle to its development," Mr Hennessy said.
The knock on effects of the reduced capital budget will be devastating, he said. "In the short to medium term the nurseries and forest services companies will be hit very hard. They have indicated previously that a minimum 5,000 hectares is required to maintain these services. In the longer-term there will be serious implications for the sustainable supply of timber to the processing and wood energy sectors as well as our climate change commitments".
The IFA Forestry Chairman said, "the potential of the sector will only be realised if Government provides the necessary supports. The contribution that can be made to economic activity and the mitigation of climate change has been underestimated for too long".
Ireland has the lowest percentage of land under forest in the EU, with just 9 per cent, well below the EU average of 35 per cent. A target of 17 per cent for forestation has been set.
"There are a lot of concerns amongst forestry companies as regards lay-offs. We have got to keep planting and reach our targets," Mr Hennessy said.
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Friday 24 May 2013
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