Dáil Éireann - Volume 509 - 20 October, 1999

Written Answers. - Afforestation Programme.

63. Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources the steps, if any, being taken to prevent a recurrence of the events described in the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General which resulted in his Department having to pay grants and compensation totalling over £760,000 for forestry plantations which failed due to unsuitable soil conditions not detected by inspectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20697/99]

Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources (Dr. Woods): In 1994, my Department introduced amended pre-planting inspection procedures to identify instances of shell marl, high ph and other soil conditions. Since then, inspectors extract soil samples at potential afforestation sites. The inspector conducts a preliminary test on site for the soil conditions described before further testing at an approved laboratory, if necessary. Where unsuitable soil conditions are detected, the area is deemed unplantable.

Following the introduction of this amended inspection procedure only one further case of crop failure due to unsuitable soil conditions such as shell marl has emerged since 1994.

Furthermore, the write-off in respect of grants and premium payments is likely to reach £180,000 and not £760,000.