Deputy Joe Flaherty has highlighted the need for FACs (Forestry Appeals Committee) to ramp up activity
Fianna Fail TD for Longford, Joe Flaherty, has raised the issue of the ongoing crisis affecting the forestry and timber processing sectors with the Taoiseach and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue.
Speaking after a meeting of the select committee on agriculture, Deputy Flaherty commented on the challenges facing the sector, mentioning the plight of one local business in particular.
Deputy Flaherty commented, “From a parochial angle I am most concerned for Glennon Bros Ltd, an iconic family ran Longford business with 250 employees and another 245 contractors who depend on the business. The current crisis facing the sector threatens the future of these jobs and another 11,500 jobs in the forestry sector.
“In recent weeks Glennon Bros brought four ship loads of timber across here from Scotland for processing. It’s adding cost to the business, threatening viability, added to construction costs and added to the carbon bill. None of it makes sense.”
Deputy Flaherty said that a solution needs to be found to the two key issues of felling license and the FAC (Forestry Appeals Committee) process.
“In terms of forestry, 301 felling licences were issued in October 2020 and this was down to 273 then in November and there are 4,600 applications outstanding and notwithstanding new applications it would take 16 months to clear the backlog.
“As regards felling area, this was 56,100 ha to the end of November 2019 and this year it’s just 16,306 ha. Licences are being issued for felling at 29% of last year’s rate.
“As regards the FACs and activity there were 20 cases ruled on in November but just four more than in October with 500 plus applications still outstanding.
“We are told that there are four FACs established, but in reality they meet just once a week. Tracking that performance level and assuming no new applications it will take two years to clear the backlog. These four FACs need to ramp up activity and convene several times a week.”
Deputy Flaherty has called on the Department of Agriculture to set specific targets in terms of the management of licencing, adding that these targets need to be actively micro-managed on a daily / weekly basis. And thirdly that the FACs must follow through on the supports and mechanism put in place to support them by the recent Forestry Bill.