Timber shortage threatens thousands of forestry jobs, warns Coillte

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Coillte warned the government that there could be a shortage of timber to sell before the end of the year, leading to thousands of job losses in the forestry sector.

The warning was made in a letter sent in August to Taoiseach Micheál Martin in his role as acting Minister of Agriculture.

The semi-public logging company has contacted to raise concerns about the impact on its business of a backlog in the appeals process for logging permits, it has been learned. The forestry agency warned the Taoiseach that if it ran out of wood, state sawmills would face a drastic shortage of raw materials.

The backlog has led to the cancellation of several timber auctions by the semi-state already this year, Coillte said in a statement.

The Taoiseach met with officials last week to discuss the situation following the letter, government sources said.

Coillte told the Irish Times that its timber supply for the remainder of 2020 and 2021 is “at serious risk due to delays in handling appeals, which has resulted in a significant backlog”.

“The leave and appeal process is currently not functioning in a way that allows Coillte to meet the timber needs of the sector,” a statement from the semi-state said.

The forestry industry has said that appeals for permits to cut trees are not being dealt with quickly enough by the department’s forestry appeals committee, with the number of appeals currently before the body standing at around 400, and the committee working through them at a rate of about 20 per month.

“The underlying issues need to be resolved urgently,” a spokesperson for Coillte said, calling for changes to the farm appeals law and appropriate resources for the committee “so appeals can be dealt with. in right time”.

A spokesperson for the agriculture ministry said a bill to “align the forestry authorization and appeals system with other similar planning processes” had been posted on the website of the ministry inviting the public to comment on the proposals in July.

The ministry said the bill would seek to change the way the forestry appeal committee works “to make the appeal process more efficient.”

New legislation

Sources said the government intended to address the issue through new legislation at the start of Dáil’s new term, with legislation already being drafted by the agriculture ministry and the attorney general’s office.

Coillte said the new licensing procedures for tree harvesting “have had a serious impact on the issuance of logging licenses in Coillte and also the forestry sector at large.”

The availability of equipment for sale by the organization has been limited, he said, arguing that “the problem has become very critical,” and Coillte has had to cancel six of its monthly auctions.

The Agriculture Ministry said the minister was “fully aware” of the problems in the sector, and said a “detailed project plan” was being implemented to increase the production of licenses, including the hiring of new resources in the ministry.


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