Private forestry fund bankrolled by the State must be stopped

12 January 2023

• Government should halt the development of the Irish Strategic Forestry Fund says Kelly

Labour spokesperson on Agriculture, Alan Kelly TD has called for Coillte to adopt a new approach of both planting more publicly owned forests and of partnering with farmers to support them in developing new forestry on their own lands which will provide a long term sustainable income and help Ireland meet our climate targets.

Deputy Kelly said:
“The proposed Irish Strategic Forestry Fund makes no sense and is causing concern for environmentalists and farmers. It is being seed funded by the State through the Irish Strategic Investment Fund, and future income payments will be bankrolled by the State through premia payments.

“Under the reported proposal, Coillte will source the land for forestry, carry out the planting and management while it is private investments in the fund that will benefit from State grants and premia. The commercial focus of this fund will mean more monoculture forests, driven by profit, and will not boost biodiversity or support our agriculture sector to meet ambitious sectoral emission targets.

“If it is a State owned company that is doing all the work, and the State that is providing all the funds then it does not make sense for private investors to get all the financial benefits. Why isn’t Coillte simply managing these proposed forests themselves, or partnering with farmers to provide expertise and support for them to plant their own lands?

“If Coillte cannot meet the scale of investment needed, then the government should support it to do so directly through the ISIF or the investment of new capital, rather than outsourcing all the profits to the private sector. Further, if EU rules are a problem here blocking Coillte from planting more forests and receiving available grants, then the Minister should be pushing in Brussels for this to be changed so that the State can be a leader in forestry rather than outsourcing the profits to investors.

“Even more importantly, the Government must clarify why Coillte and the Department of Agriculture are not encouraging farmers to plant their own forests on their own land, and provide them with a long term secure source of rather than having this outsourced to speculative investors. Coillte has expertise and scale that should be deployed to support farmers not investors.

“If the purpose of this fund arrangement is to allow investors benefit from EU forestry grants and single farm payments which Coillte cannot access, then it is clear that these potential payments would be better off in the hands of farmers seeking to diversify then being pocketed by investment funds. This would provide farmers with a new long term source of income and ensure we also commit to most sustainable and biodiverse forestry.”

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