Depart­ment rules out forestry re­stric­tions

Irish Independent - Farming - - NEWS - LOUISE HO­GAN

THE Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture con­firmed it will not move to in­tro­duce re­stric­tions on the sale of agri­cul­tural land.

It fol­lows ad­vances by the EU to com­bat largescale ac­qui­si­tion of farm­land by in­vest­ment funds.

The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion has stated farm­land is a “spe­cial as­set” and coun­tries can in­tro­duce re­stric­tions to help limit price spec­u­la­tion and pre­serve lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties. How­ever, the Depart­ment stated “very lit­tle” land comes up for sale in Ire­land.

Its anal­y­sis of ap­pli­ca­tions for forestry plant­ings show for­eign in­vest­ment funds are buy­ing very lit­tle bare land for forestry.

Out of 6,500ha planted last year, only 126ha was planted by cor­po­rate en­ti­ties.

John Roche, Manag­ing Direc­tor of The Forestry Com­pany, said they were in­volved in forestry in al­most every county and the “vast ma­jor­ity” of their clients are farm­ers. He said there has not been a sharp in­crease in new plant­ing but an in­creased fo­cus on man­age­ment of for­est that was planted in the 90s and later.

Thin­ning

“A lot are get­ting an in­come from the tim­ber now. There is a re­al­i­sa­tion among grow­ers that there is more to it than just the pre­mium,” he said, with the typ­i­cal an­nual pre­mium around €206/ac for conifers or Sitka spruce. “There would have been a per­cep­tion that you plant land just for the pre­mium, but farm­ers are re­al­is­ing there is in­come from thin­ning and sig­nif­i­cant in­come from clear­fell down the line.”

Gerry Loftus from the INHFA stated a large amount of for­eign fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions are buy­ing up land to avail of tax free in­cen­tives.

Mr Loftus said farm­land should be treated as a “spe­cial as­set” and the State should put pro­pos­als in place.

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