Dáil Éireann - Volume 572 - 21 October, 2003

Written Answers. - Afforestation Programme.

  262. Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his Department's cost benefit ratio return on forestry expenditure; the plans he has to reinstate support measures to develop the forestry sector; the further plans he has to ensure a sustainable planting programme for the forestry sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24173/03]

  Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. D. Ahern): Government policy for the sector remains as set out in the 1996 strategy, Growing for the Future, and was most recently reaffirmed in the new partnership agreement, Sustaining Progress. Implementation of the strategy over the period to 2030 was costed at €3.96 billion at 1996 values. The funding allocation for forestry over the coming years will be determined in the context of the Estimates process for those years.

  It is seven years since the launch of the strategy, Growing for the Future, and I have directed that it should now be reviewed. This review will reflect the significant changes in the sector as a whole since 1996 and will address, inter alia, the cost and benefits of forestry together with the interaction between forestry and more traditional agricultural land use supports and policies.

  263. Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if expenditure allocation for 2004, which is presently being formulated, will take into consideration the cost benefit ratio return on this expenditure as recently calculated by a leading economist; and if the allocation for 2004 will be cut no further, following the 27% cut in 2002. [24174/03]

  Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. D. Ahern): Government policy for the sector remains as set out in the 1996 strategy, Growing for the Future, and was most recently reaffirmed in the new partnership agreement, Sustaining Progress. Implementation of the strategy over the period to 2030 was costed at €3.96 billion at 1996 values. The funding allocation for forestry for 2004 will be determined in the context of the Estimates process for that year. In the latter context, I can assure the Deputy that the Government will make fully informed decisions on all allocations of public moneys, including in relation to forestry, in the context of the Estimates process. However, it is not appropriate at this point to speculate, in advance of [1575] Government consideration, on matters relating to the funding allocations for particular programmes in 2004.

  I would also inform the Deputy that as it is seven years since the launch of the strategy Growing for the Future, I have directed that it should now be reviewed. This review will reflect the significant changes in the sector as a whole since 1996 and will address, inter alia, the cost and benefits of forestry together with the interaction between forestry and more traditional agricultural land use supports and policies.

  I would add that the House should be made aware of the historic and future cost of forestry. Some €613 million has been invested by the Government and the EU in forestry since 1997 representing an annual average of about €88 million and, if existing policies were to continue, annual average costs, assuming respectively planting of 10,000 hectares and 20,000 hectares per annum, would be €100 million or €130 million over the next three years. Under the Rural Development Programme 2000-2006 the EU funds 50% of these costs. By the year 2020 the gross annual cost of meeting the targets outlined in the Government strategy for the sector could be over €210 million.