THE IRISH FORESTRY and Forest Products Association (IFFPA) has warned of the potential impact the continuing decline in the planting of new forests will have on the industry.
In its annual review published today the association, which is part of the Irish Business and Employer Confederation (IBEC), says that it has “repositioned” itself as a major exporter.
In 2011, 77 per cent of forest products which were manufactured in Ireland were exported with a total value of €286 million.
The Irish industry was the largest exporter of MDF wood to the UK.
However the IFFPA has warned that the country may not have enough indigenous raw material in the coming years to meet demand in the market with the 6,653 hectares of new forest planted in 2011 a 20 per cent decline on 2010.
The government is targeting an increase in forest cover from 10.6 per cent in 2011 to 17 per cent by 2030 in a move which theoretically could create a number of jobs in rural parts of the country.
The forestry sector currently employs just under 12,000 people in Ireland.
But IFFPA director Marian Byron said: “Investment in planting must be accompanied by investment in the necessary infrastructure to get product to market. This will include investment in harvesting infrastructure and in forest roads.
“The industry has demonstrated a genuine capacity to develop export markets, generate wealth and create sustainable regional employment.
“IFFPA maintains that the realisation of Government afforestation targets alongside the required infrastructure development to mobilise raw materials to market, in conjunction with a supportive regulatory framework, will facilitate the continued growth of the sector.”