Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Questions (336)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

336. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will report on the progress and projections of afforestation targets and plans in A Programme for A Partnership Government; if the targets are being met; the proportion of new forest planting that is native broadleaf species and single species conifer plantation, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22747/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Programme for Partnership Government committed to increasing planting from 6,000 hectares in 2015 to 8,290 hectares in 2020, under the Forestry Programme 2014 - 2020. Progress to date is shown in the following table:-

Scheme

2015 target

2015 Actual

2016 target

2016 Actual

2017 target

2017 Actual

2018 Target

2018 Actual

Afforestation, ha

6,000

6,293

6,660

6,500

7,140

5,536

7,205

4,036

While targets overall have not been met, the level of native woodland planting has been increasing steadily. In fact the total area of new native woodlands established in 2018 is the highest on record at 374 hectares. Based on current levels of planting and approvals, 2019 should see an even higher rate of native woodland planting.

Our target is to reach 30% broadleaves as a % of new planting. In 2018, this figure was 27%. This was an increase on the previous year when it was 21%. This increase is directly related to the higher grant and premium rates for broadleaves introduced under the midterm review of the Forestry Programme 2014 -2020, accompanied by a mandatory requirement that all new conifer plantations have 15% broadleaves.

With regard to the level of afforestation, while there are many challenges in reaching the targets set, not least competing land uses, I am committed to promoting planting, especially amongst farmers. To this end, I am hopeful that the increases in payment rates introduced under the mid-term review in 2018 will have the desired incentive effect and result in increased uptake. As 2018 was a particularly difficult year for planting because of inclement weather conditions, the full effect of these changes has yet to be seen. Active promotion of afforestation is also key to achieving our target which is why I recently granted support in the amount of €830,000 to 15 innovative promotion projects which will run over the next two years; their efforts will be complemented by Teagasc’s promotional activities and information days, as well the Department’s own communication strategy.

We also continue to engage with stakeholders especially through the Forestry Implementation Group and a Forestry Promotion Group, which discuss implementation and ways to promote afforestation. Furthermore, my Department is engaging with Coillte to agree a model whereby Coillte may contribute to afforestation rates, in order to support the Government in its climate change mitigation effort. We will also explore all opportunities under the new CAP to encourage farm forestry.