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Minister of State Wallace opens National Forestry Conference

Opening the National Forestry Conference 2006 today in the Tullamore Court Hotel, Tullamore, Co. Offaly, Ms. Mary Wallace T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food highlighted the value of forestry to the Irish economy and the importance of markets for the output from our forests. The National Forestry Conference 2006 was organised jointly by COFORD, the Irish Forest Industry Chain, the Irish Timber Growers Association and the Society of Irish Foresters.

Addressing the conference, Minister of State Wallace underlined the increasing importance of forestry to the Irish economy, contributing over €1 billion annually to GNP and employing some 16,000 people, directly and indirectly, mainly in rural Ireland. The Minister pointed out that forestry still had major growth potential and stated that Ireland was far from achieving its full potential from this area. "Output from existing forests on the island can increase from around 3 million cubic metres at present to around 5 million cubic metres by 2015" she said.

The Minister of State said she was pro-actively targeting expansion of forestry through the afforestation programme but that it was also important to look at the market opportunities. While saw milling and board manufacture are the principal markets for wood, areas such as fencing and decking have developed in recent years and we now need to look at the new markets for wood energy and non-wood products which can provide further market opportunities.

"The annual quantities of wood likely to be available for energy production will nearly treble up to 2015, going from 400,000 tonnes currently to 1,118,000 tonnes", the Minister said.

"The use of wood as an energy source will yield a number of benefits including rural development as wood supply changes evolve to meet market demand; reduce dependence on fossil fuels with a knock-on reduction on the emissions of greenhouse gases, and the realisation of Government investment in forestry".

Minister of State Wallace also drew attention to the potential for the development of markets for other non-wood forest products, such as foliage and provision of recreation. These are also only beginning to be exploited in this country and both have significant growth potential.

10 March, 2006

Date Released: 10 March 2006