Fergal Leamy, CEO, Coillte (Photo: Gintaras Varnagys)
Fergal Leamy, CEO of Coillte, believes the Irish forestry industry could be worth nearly €5 billion in the next ten years.
This may be so but the Coillte Chief Executive says that the country as a whole is slow on the uptake of the sector’s potential despite the fact Ireland has faster tree growth than most EU rival countries in the field.
Forestation and afforestation rates in Ireland are currently well below the European average. Around 11% of Ireland’s land mass is forested. The EU average stands at 38%.
4,000 hectares a year are being converted to forest, which is well below the government target of 7,000 hectares.
Fergal Leamy said that, “We as a country are not getting the importance of forestry.”
Coillte announced its full-year results for 2017 which showed the semi-state doubling its operating cash from €15 million in 2016 to €30 million last year. This is due to record revenues of nearly €300 million.
The company is also in the midst of a five-year plan aimed at reducing its reliance on large-scale land transactions and focusing on forestry, wind energy and wood panel manufacturing.
Fergal Leamy also stated that €20 million has been cut off its cost base, reducing head office staff from 100 to 17 and reducing reliance on external consulting, as the organisation looks forward to a crucial year in 2018.