: As I have indicated in response to recent representations I can assure the Deputy that I am concious this ia a difficult time for Irish timber processors. Expansion of production capacity over a number of years has resulted in an overcapacity situation in the sawmilling industry putting pressure on limited supplies of logs and forcing prices up.
The question of log supply and pricing has been the subject of discussions between all the parties concerned and a framework for a new timber sales regime has been drawn up to address the issue. This framework was agreed between Coillte and the Irish Timber Council in March 1996. Since then, various meetings have taken place to have the new system agreed by the end of 1996. I understand that satisfactory progress is being made in this regard.
The current weakness in the price of sawn timber is a real difficulty for the sawmilling sector throughout Europe. This has been caused by an over supply from Scandinavia and slack demand in the European construction industry resulting in increased competition in the marketplace and falling prices.
As announced by the Minister for Tourism and Trade in Dáil Éireann on 25 July 1996, Bord Tráchtála has established a sterling market task force to help companies with a substantial UK dependency. I have asked that the difficulties being experienced by the sawmilling sector be taken into account by the task force.