In his Keynote Address to the National Forestry Conference, Tom Hayes, TD, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with responsibility for forestry, stressed the significant contribution the forestry sector actually makes to the economy and society in general, noting that there are just under 12,000 people employed in the Irish forestry and forest products sector and that some 78% of the output of Ireland’s processing sector was exported in 2012. The conference organised by the Wood Marketing Federation and the Society of Irish Foresters, and supported by the Irish Farmers Journal, was held in the Johnstown House Hotel, Enfield, Co. Meath.
The Minister of State added that “The theme of the conference, “What shall we do with the timber” is particularly appropriate and I am sure that it will be thought-provoking and will give us an overview of the strengths, opportunities and challenges facing our forestry sector.”
In a wide-ranging speech, Minister of State Hayes updated the attendance on current and long term issues associated with the development of the forestry sector, including the measures taken to deal with the storm damage to Irish forests earlier this year, the ongoing work in dealing with forest diseases and ensuring that factors affecting afforestation and forest management are dealt with.
He added that “At a national level, there are three main issues – the formulation of the new forestry programme to bring us up to 2020, the updating of the legislative framework within which the forestry sector operates and the outcome of the review of forest policy.”
Noting that afforestation is crucial to the long term sustainability of the sector, he advised that he would be seeking to resolve the issues associated with the hen harrier areas and also reiterated “that my Department is looking at all options available within this new framework [the new forestry programme 2014-2020] to maintain an attractive afforestation scheme for the next 6 years.
It goes without saying that the country is still facing a serious budgetary situation in terms of the public finances and my Department will have to fight for every cent that we get but I am satisfied that investment of public money in the forestry sector makes sound economic sense.”
The Minister of State welcomed the conference, commenting “Like every other sector, the forestry sector cannot afford to stand still. Innovation and the development of new markets and products are the lifeblood of every sector” and congratulated the Wood Marketing Federation and the Society of Irish Foresters on organising such a comprehensive conference, and the Irish Farmers Journal for supporting it.