Up to 400 forestry jobs are at risk this winter due to what the industry has described as an “unacceptable” delay in releasing details of a new government payment scheme.
So says the sector’s leading industry body group, which has accused the agriculture ministry of being “permanently underachieving” when it comes to its management of the sector.
“The industry is facing a complete shutdown this winter. The cash flow of forestry companies depends on these figures. Without them, hundreds of jobs are at risk,” said Mark McAuley, director of Forest Industries Ireland, Ibec’s affiliate group for the sector.
“They knew they had to offer this program 24 months ago,” he said. “But the forestry side of the department is under-resourced and the political will is lacking.”
The delays – which the industry fears could extend into 2023 – meant that many forestry workers would not have work for the next three months, usually the crucial planting season, and that the program of Ireland’s already underperforming reforestation would face further delays, despite its critical importance. is part of the national strategy to combat climate change.
McAuley wrote to Minister Pippa Hackett last week asking for details of the new financial arrangements.
The government promised details at last month’s plowing championship and logging companies are unable to sign contracts, start new work or plant trees.
“I am aware that discussions on the Forestry Program budget and payments are ongoing with the Department of Expenditure (DPER) and I request that the final decisions from this process be made available to the forestry sector as soon as they arise. will be available, regardless of any other steps in the program adoption process such as the SEIA and discussions with the European Commission,” he wrote.
“We need these details as soon as possible as the delay is creating a complete disruption to reforestation, road construction and other activities on the ground. We cannot afford to lose three months of activity because we do not know the details of the new program.
“Not only will the delays further reduce afforestation levels, but the sector is struggling to maintain cash flow due to lack of activity. Currently, companies are unable to put in place contractual arrangements for 2023 or have meaningful discussions with their customers regarding new projects.
McAuley urged the Green Party minister to “speed up deliberations with DPER and then immediately provide the figures to the sector” in a draft format ahead of what he feared further bureaucratic delays as the new program was to remove environmental barriers and state aid. But the ministry insisted in a response to the Sunday Independent that “there has been significant engagement to date with stakeholders and the public” and that the program will be subject to public consultation through the Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment process at from Tuesday.
The Minister had met with industry representatives as recently as Thursday and secured an additional €12m in the budget for forestry to reach a total budget of €112m and was in detailed discussion with DPER” to agree significantly more attractive grant and premium rates for the new scheme to encourage the levels of planting needed for Ireland to meet its reforestation targets,” a spokesperson said. He hoped to release details.” coming weeks” and a large volume of work was underway.
“The minister is confident to keep his promises,” he said.
But McAuley said it was “another example of the department failing to deliver and the industry leaving the box”. Less than 2,000 hectares would be planted this year, against a government target of 8,000 hectares.