24 May 2018

Call for more on-farm tree planting

Soaring timber and firewood prices should act as an incentive for more farmers to consider planting trees or better manage areas of existing woodland on their farms, according to forestry body Confor.

Figures from the Forestry Commission show timber prices have risen by almost 30% in a year and are nearly double the level of a decade ago, with some regional hotspots seeing prices above the average.

Andrew Heald, technical director of Confor, says that with demand for timber predicted to remain high at a domestic and global level, a long-term approach to forestry to secure future supply is very much needed.

“Scotland is increasing planting rates but the rest of the UK is lagging behind and the supply crisis will only get worse unless we tackle this problem now,” he said.

“These statistics highlight the need for forestry and wood processing to be more of a central focus for the rural economy after Brexit.”

Mr Heald said many farmers and landowners were beginning to realise the benefits of planting part of their land with trees.

“For those who already have trees but have not managed these proactively in the past or who have timber in hard-to-access locations, now is the time to have that asset valued and look at realising its potential return.”

The push for plantings

The UK is the world’s second largest net importer of timber after China, but the creation of new woodland in England is at a 46-year low.

Strong demand for timber is coming from the construction sector, pallet market, as well as from the agricultural and garden fence sector, biomass and woodchip industries.

To increase domestic supplies and reduce the UK’s reliance on imports, Confor has identified key areas in the north and west of England which it says should be designated as forestry investment zones with the aim of promoting large-scale woodland creation.

It says these are areas with land suitable for timber production and with sizeable timber processing facilities already located in the vicinity.

The first investment zone it has selected is in Cumbria, with other local authority areas to follow:

  • Northumberland County Council
  • Durham County Council
  • North Yorkshire County Council
  • Shropshire (Unitary authority)
  • Telford and Wrekin (Unitary authority)
  • Herefordshire (Unitary authority)
  • Gloucestershire County Council
  • South Gloucestershire (Unitary authority)
  • Somerset County Council
  • Wiltshire (Unitary authority)
  • Dorset County Council
  • Cornwall (Unitary authority)
  • Devon County Council

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