Failure to eliminate timber felling backlog despite rising cost of building materials

Clare Independent TD Michael McNamara says the Government can do more to ease high timber prices and the consequent impact on construction costs by speeding up efforts to reduce the backlog of forestry license applications across the country.

Figures released by the Department of Agriculture; Food and the Marine in response to a Parliamentary Question by Deputy McNamara show that 4,050 forestry licences were issued last year, which is an increase of 56% on the number issued in 2020. The Department had 4,803 licence applications on hand at the beginning of 2022 compared to 6,100 in August 2021. In January this year, 64 afforestation and 293 felling licences were issued.

“It is within the control and remit of the Department of Agriculture to increase the supply of timber and thereby stabilise price increases. it is incredible that despite the progress made, there still is a very significant backlog in felling licence applications,” commented Deputy McNamara.

The Clare TD said the high cost of building materials is continuing to have significant knock-on effects for other inflationary pressures such as housing shortages.

“The rise in building material costs is one particularly alarming aspect of inflation particularly as we urgently need to increase our housing stock to address rising rental costs, which in turn is one of the key factors driving inflation,” he explained. “It is widely accepted that there are limited areas in which the Government can influence inflation in Ireland. One of the few building materials that the Government can influence is timber and it is not doing so adequately.”

Deputy McNamara stated that there is a lot of timber growing in Ireland and much of that is past the point of maturity, while many landowners are looking for felling licences.

“I would ask the Minister of State Pippa Hackett to expedite the granting of licenses as it is within her remit and powers to do so,” he concluded.