Dáil Éireann - Volume 514 - 10 February, 2000

Written Answers. - Afforestation Programme.

15. Mr. Sheehan asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources the amount of hectares planted under forestry in 1999; if this is in line with the target set out in the Government approved strategic plan; and the percentage of the total planted in 1999 undertaken by individual farmers. [3591/00]

Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. Fahey): Final planting figures for 1999 are not yet available. The estimated outturn for 1999 was 13,000 hectares, of which an estimated 80% was carried out by or on behalf of farmers. The planting targets set in the strategic plan for the forestry sector are 25,000 hectares annually to the year 2000 and 20,000 hectares annually thereafter to the year 2030.

While the planting levels of recent years are in their own right quite substantial, they show a shortfall on the targets previously, even when one recognises that the targets were extremely challenging ones they have been disappointing. Action is being taken on a number of fronts to increase planting levels further. A key issue is the level of financial incentives. I have already outlined to the Deputy in reply to Priority Question No. 4 the action being taken in this matter. It is the intention to link forestry and REPS more closely in the new rural development plan. Teagasc advisors and REPS planners will ensure that due account is taken of the forestry option in the preparation of REPS plans on behalf of farmers. The IFA is receiving support from the forest service for the promotion of forestry as a result of discussions I had with the IFA last autumn. The processing of grant applications and payments, which has been a cause of legitimate complaint by some applicants, will be improved greatly over the next few months as the new computerised system in the forest service offices in Wexford comes onstream.