Cork farmer generates €180,000 from 6.5ha of Sitka

Veon’s south-west foresters, Chris Byrne and Daniel O’Connell, completed a harvesting in Co. Cork last month for a local farm forest owner. The forest was 6.50ha of Sitka spruce.

2,900t of Sitka spruce were produced of which 15% was cut into pulpwood for the local energy market; 10% was cut into stake, again sold locally; 15% was cut into pallet; and 60% cut into commercial sawlog (construction, roof trusses, housing timber frames etc) that was sent to a local sawmill for processing.

This harvest generated €180,000 (€11,250/ac) of income for the farmer, income tax free. The harvest also provided a raw material to the local market to be processed, helping to sustain jobs in the rural economy.

Veon’s local forester Daniel O’Connell (who was chosen as an Escort at this year’s Rose of Tralee International Festival), commented: “The forest owner didn’t realise their forest was so valuable and was delighted with the income generated from the timber.”

Sitka spruce is the ‘hero species’ and the mainstay of the Irish forest industry. Although a favourite target of the uninformed – especially those seeking election – Sitka spruce is the primary commercial species in Ireland.

With the benefit of hindsight, many lessons have been learned from the mistakes of planting policies in the past.

Gone are the days of blanket spruce planting with no setbacks from roads, rivers and houses, which gave rise to the negativity the forestry sector has recently experienced.

What is rarely if ever recognised, however, is that such practices stopped over a decade ago. Minimum setbacks and percentages of alternative species are now commonplace in all new forest creations, which is underpinned with the new Forestry Act 2014.

Foresters in Ireland know it’s all about the right tree in the right place. The beauty of Sitka is that it loves typical Irish agricultural conditions. It will thrive in the places where our native broadleaves will not survive and even if they did they would struggle.

From a landowner’s perspective, the returns from Sitka are reliable. When a Veon forester discusses options with someone who is thinking about planting, they listen to what the objectives of the owner are.

If the number one objective is to create a forest that is sustainable and will generate income for them and for their kids, then Sitka is the ideal primary species.

With correct forest management, other advantages can be gained such as 15% of the site is planted with broadleaves along rivers, roads and house setbacks. Up to 15% of the site can be also be managed for bio-diversity with premia payments on 100% of the forest site.

Professional forest planning and management will ensure that the soil is enriched; that rivers are protected; that flooding risks are reduced; that carbon is sequestered from the atmosphere; and that the environment, as well as the forest owner, are in a win-win situation.

Crucially though, the forest owner has a crop that will generate income for his family for generations to come.

Image source: CONFOR

Irish forest owners need to familiarise themselves with the market prior to selling timber to ensure they are being paid a fair price for their product.

Forest owners should bulk tender their forests so they can avail of economies of scale and secure better prices for their road construction and also for their timber.

Timber processors greatly appreciate the scaling of thinning and harvesting, which is more cost-effective for them and consequently they are willing to pay a premium for the timber they can purchase in bulk categories.

As Ireland’s market leaders in harvesting and thinning, Veon will organise this bulk category system, grouping forest growers activity and timber whilst ensuring that each forest is treated individually and completely separate and also organising individual contracts with each grower.

Forestry Knowledge Transfer Groups

New Forestry Knowledge Transfer Groups (KTGs) for the mobilisation of timber are currently being set up by the Forest Service.

These groups will assist forest owners who require additional knowledge to help them undertake one or more management activities in their forests. Forestry KTGs will provide the mechanism for gaining this expertise and empower them to help manage their own forests over its rotation.

Forest owners will receive €70 per meeting they attend to gain knowledge about the industry.