Written Answers. - Sawmilling Industry.

Pat Gallagher

Question:

612 Mr. Gallagher (Laoighis-Offaly) asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties in the sawmilling industry, due, in part, to sawlog prices and pricing structure set by Coillte; if his attention has been drawn to the worries being experienced by employees in that industry, particularly in County Laois; the measures, if any, he will take to address the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16152/96]

The sale of timber is a matter for Coillte Teoranta in the context of its legislative mandate, as contained in the 1988 Forestry Act and is not, therefore, one in which it would be appropriate for me to intervene.

I am aware that the Irish sawmilling sector in general is experiencing difficulty at present in the light of an adverse international market situation for pulpwood, residues, chips and sawdust. Intake of these sawmilling products by the traditional users in the panel board sector has fallen, which in addition to reduced prices, is having an adverse impact on sawmillers' returns.

All sawmills purchase their timber from Coillte through its tender system. The price derived from the tender process is to a large extent, therefore, set by sawmills.

The framework for a new timber sales regime has been agreed between Coillte Teoranta and the Irish Timber Council. This will be an auction-based, market-related, system which will improve transparency and avail of the opportunity offered by new technology. Discussions between the parties on the detailed implementation of the new regime are under way and I understand that good progress is being made. I continue to impress on both parties the importance which I attach to a speedy and successful conclusion to their deliberations. It is intended to have most, if not all, of the elements of the new regime in place by end-1996.