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Browne addresses IFCA Annual Dinner

Mr. John Browne T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food, addressing the annual dinner of the Irish Forestry Contractors in the Breaffy House Hotel in Castlebar, Co. Mayo on Saturday night, outlined some of the achievements in the forestry sector in the last year and commented on the Government's current initiatives in wood energy.

Minister of State Browne said that 2005 had been a busy and eventful year with a positive outcome to the negotiations on the Rural Development Regulation and increases in planting grant rates. He commented that there was an 18% increase in the forestry allocation for 2006 and added "there is an obligation on all of us to ensure that we, as a Nation, secure the best possible value for money in pursuing our objective of sustainable forestry".

The Minister of State also drew attention to a number of initiatives to create new markets for forest thinnings and to promote wood biomass, which included a joint initiative with the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources to grant aid wood fired boilers. He explained "This new scheme, developed by Minister Dempsey and myself, will create a network of real markets for woodchip countrywide. I also plan to seek EU approval to introduce a special scheme to support the major investment required for the purchase of biomass harvesters and chippers. The stimulation of new markets and creation of new harvesting capacity is good news for all involved in the sector." He added "I have sought to give a practical lead in the promotion of wood biomass by introducing a wood heating system to my Department buildings at Johnstown Castle" and concluded that he was hopeful that all of these initiatives would help to develop the marketing opportunities for forest thinnings.

Minister of State Browne recognised the important role which organisations like the Irish Forestry Contractors Associations and individuals can play in this forestry area and also drew attention to his recent announcement of a Call for Proposals from interested parties, looking in particular for innovative proposals for the development and promotion of sustainable forestry. This follows a similar Call for Proposals in 2005.

28 January, 2006

Date Released: 28 January 2006