Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Questions (958, 959)

Verona Murphy

Question:

958. Deputy Verona Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question No. 1107 of 28 April 2021, if feedback has been sought from industry stakeholders as to the reason the 4,300 hectares have not been converted into planting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23872/21]

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Verona Murphy

Question:

959. Deputy Verona Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the area of afforestation applied for in each of the past five years; the actual area planted in each of those years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23873/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 958 and 959 together.

Approved afforestation licence applications are valid for three years. From the date the licence issues, the applicant has three years in which to commence planting.

There are several reasons why an applicant might postpone planting or even decide not to plant. These could include changes in personal circumstances, change of land ownership or simply a change of mind in how an applicant’s land will be farmed. Other applications are speculative with a view to increasing property values with an approved site. Some other landowners may decide to lease their land. Of course, delays in receiving a licence may also be a factor. Department officials are in regular contact with industry stakeholders and this issue is raised with them.

Whatever the reasons, it is very clear that unused afforestation licences of this scale are not sustainable. It is in everybody's interest that planting is substantially increased. The resources required to process such licences are significant. There is an onus on all applicants and foresters to ensure that all applications will definitely proceed when applying. Similarly, of course, there is an onus on the Department to process them as quickly as possible.

Working with Minister of State Pippa Hackett who has overall responsibility for forestry, I remain hopeful that the framework now in place under Project Woodland will address our current difficulties and will result in a licensing system which meets the needs of forest owners and new applicants. I encourage those that have approval to go ahead to plant and to unlock the generous annual premiums available to forest owners.

My Department provides various forestry statistics, in its pages on the Government of Ireland website, including the areas of afforestation for which applications were received and planted in each of the last five years. These figures are given in the table below.

Hectares

Applications Received

Planted

2016

13,280

6,498

2017

11,483

5,511

2018

8,623

4,054

2019

7,756

3,541

2020

7,070

2,433

Question No. 959 answered with Question No. 958.