A Scottish forest bomb saves the company, which has produced 90% of the Irish tree plants

“If Ireland doesn’t carry out its performance, the nursery in this country will end” is Teige Ryan’s opinion on Irish forestry.

Farming trees on 530 acres and employing 85 people in Cos Wexford and Wicklow, Mr Ryan, who manages None-So-Hardy (Forestry) Ltd has been engaged for the last 35 years.

He said that without demand from his trees in Scotland for the last two years, he would leave his business in 2019.

None-So-Hardy is the largest private nursery in Ireland, delivering over 90% of the stock needed for planting in Ireland.

Due to very low levels of forest planting in this country in recent years, millions of seedlings from the arboretum would have been destroyed if the market in Scotland had not opened.

“There is an increase in demand for plants in Scotland, where more than 10,000 hectares of new forest are created each year,” Mr Ryan said.

“Over the last few years in Ireland, we have seen planting fail to reach an industrial sustainable level of 6,000 ha annually.

“In more recent years there has been a complete collapse as the Forest Service’s licensing system has stagnated.”

The merchant said that forestry in Ireland had begun No-So-Tempered,

But despite it being the largest such company in Ireland, the current situation “does not last” for him.

“We supply about 90% of all plants used in the private sector in Ireland,” Mr Ryan said.

“We are growing our plants to meet the Government’s plant goals, and as these are no longer being achieved, we are left with millions of unused plants in Ireland.

“Fortunately for our nursery, a plantation program is currently growing in Scotland, and we have been fortunate to export millions of our trees, which would otherwise be destroyed, to Scotland.

“What went wrong is quite simple.

“The Forest Service, which is the licensing authority in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Navy, does not give enough permits to plant trees, build roads and cut down trees.

“As a nursery, this affects us a lot.

“We are particularly affected by the non-issuance of forest licenses, which is huge for us and, as a country, we will not meet our climate action targets.

“Because the Department is not able to issue a sufficient number of permits, it must prioritize and also put resources into logging, roads and forests.

“Over the last few months, of all the licenses it has given each week, less than 15% of them are for afforestation.”

Mr Ryan said the Government aims to plant 8,000 ha this year, but he added, “with the current production level in the Department, Ireland will be lucky to plant 2,500 ha”.

“I see that happening. We are coming to the end of the year, and everyone will be extremely disappointed by the fact that we are not achieving our climate goals, however this is happening now as we speak.

“Our trees are planted in Scotland, not Ireland, and make a huge contribution to their climate change mitigation action.

“What we are doing now in relation to Scotland is not going to last for us.

“There are no contracts. We’ve just been extremely fortunate that the planting in Scotland is happening on a large scale.”

Scotland has gone from planting a little over 4,000 ha a few years ago to 11,000 ha a year now, while Ireland is planting 2,500 ha a year.

“For us this is not a long-term cure at all.

“We can only access the Scottish market at the moment,” Mr Ryan said.

“Here at the nursery, we will start planting trees in April, to begin another three-year cycle, and our production will be based on Ireland planting 8,000 ha when those trees are ready.

“We are sowing for the Irish market and yet, now, the market is not there. Just thank God the Scots are planting. “

Way forward

The nursery owner says the crisis has been going on for the last year and a half now.

What bothers him most is the “lack of political will to sort things out.”

“Although Minister Hackett’s Woodland Project and its accompanying structure have the Mackinnon Report [Review of Approval Processes for Afforestation in Ireland] carried out are welcome, the ongoing licensing saga within the Department remains the burning issue of the forestry industry.

“The current approach of the Forest Service management threatens the future of many businesses in the sector.

“In 2019, only 3,400 ha were planted, and a further decline was witnessed in 2020, when only 2,300 ha were planted, far from the Government’s 8,000 ha target.”

The authorization delays in the Forest Service mean that 2021 will see similar levels of planting, “with the arboretums once again dependent on plant exports for survival,” according to Ryan.

“Currently there are more than 1,000 plant licenses with the Department, pending a decision from the Forest Service, which issues an average of only 10 plant permits per week,” he said.

“Our nursery and our customers would need this week’s production to triple.

“Of all the forest-related licenses issued weekly, less than 15% is for planting, so there is clearly no will within the Forest Service to improve the situation.

“The Department’s poor delivery of the planting program completely undermines the Government’s commitments on climate action to plant 8,000 ha annually.

“The Department’s action not only threatens the future of nurseries, but the survival of an industry in which previous governments have invested more than € 3 billion.

“There is hope for the industry here. Scotland did it, so there’s no reason why we can’t do it.

“But it must be the political will to do it. We are at a crossroads, no doubt about it, and the Mackinnon Report must be completed in full.

“If Ireland doesn’t act together, the nursery in this country will end.”

On Tuesday last week the Joint Committee on Agriculture and Marine Affairs, which identified a solution to the residual license as the top priority, welcomed the Woodland Project initiative.

And Forestry Industry Ireland (FII) director Mark McAuley said the current me mechanismism requires not only the implementation of the Mackinnon Report but also additional project management expertise that will look after the system, make the necessary changes and deliver the licenses.

“Farmers face delays of up to two years, and in some cases significantly longer, to obtain licenses to manage their forests,” he added.

“The industry risks farmers freeing themselves from forestry as a viable land use.

“A set time frame is needed to help create trust and confidence in the process.

“The system should ensure that no farmer has to wait more than four months for a forestry license, as defined by the Forestry Act 2014, regardless of the application size,” McAuley said.

In a final report on the forest crisis in Ireland, next week the Irish Examiner will look at forestry and the environment, and the impact on forestry farmers of the license slowdown.