Planting of trees in Kilkenny plummeted to all-time-low of just 21 hectares last year compared to 545 hectares in 2005 and forestry licences are taking almost two years to process, even as a timber shortage continues to drive up prices of construction materials.
This is according to data from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the licensing body for all commercial forestry activity in the country.
Just 40 licences were issued for afforestation projects in June for the entire country, another 58 licences were issued for forest road projects, and 317 licences were granted for tree felling.
Separately, recent figures also showed that licences for 899 afforestation projects, 573 forest roads and 4,487 felling projects still await decisions from the DAFM.
There remains huge concern within the industry that this current rate of issuance of licences means that, for applications already received, the department will need over 22 months to clear the afforestation backlog; 10 months for licences needed to build roads for the transport of logs; and 14 months for felling licences.
Mark McAuley, the director of Forest Industries Ireland, said that the industry wanted to highlight the massive backlog of licences that remains in the department.
"The hugely bureaucratic approach and resulting processing times mean that the whole forest sector continues to be starved of afforestation projects and timber for the sawmills," he said.
"Everyone is caught up in this – from the farmers, all the way to the builders merchants, who are short of the timber they need to supply Ireland’s housebuilders. This is a two-year-old problem that isn’t going away, and it won’t go away until the department revises its approach."
He continues, "growing managed forests is also one of the most effective ways of removing harmful C02 from the atmosphere especially as we have the fastest growing trees in Europe and our trees literally hoover it up as they need it to grow."
Timber prices have also risen sharply since the construction industry returned from lockdown, and the problem has been exacerbated by supply problems across Europe.
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