Strong forestry sector essential for future

Strong forestry sector essential for future


One of the foundations of our industry’s success is a stable supply of timber. Right now, the two most important ingredients of ensuring a stable supply is a trade deal with the EU and supporting the long-term growth of our domestic forestry sector.

Unfortunately, as shown by a report released by CONFOR yesterday, the planting of conifers has plummeted since the 70s – from 40,000+ hectares per year in 1971 to just 5,000 hectares in 2017. There are several factors which have contributed to this decline, but one sticking point has been the impact of managed forests on biodiversity.

Some environmentalists and politicians have rabidly opposed further plantations out of concerns about the impact of these forests on native wildlife. However, sustainable forest management practices have drastically improved since the turn of the century and these forests have become contributors to preserving biodiversity, whether by buffering biodiversity-rich ancient woodland or providing species corridors. CONFOR’s new report, Biodiversity Forestry and Wood, makes this clear through a combination of research and case studies aimed at dispelling some of the myths which accompany managed forests.

If the UK is to achieve Net Zero by 2050, the forestry and timber sectors will be essential, and this means supporting the continuing restoration of UK’s ancient woodlands and the long-term growth of our own commercial forestry sector.

Of course, given these tree planting levels, the UK will remain a net importer of timber for the foreseeable future, and this makes it even more essential that the Government fulfills its pledge to secure a trade deal with the core source of most of the softwood used in construction in the UK – the EU.

It is worth continuing to pay close attention to our neighbours, and today’s big news was that after five days of intensive talks the EU has formally announced a landmark €750bn bailout agreement between the 27-member group. This includes €360bn in loans and €390bn in grants that would not need to be repaid by beneficiary countries – figures which dwarf the UK response.

European Commission President von der Leyen stated that the bail out will power a new ‘European Green Deal’ and accelerate the digitalisation of Europe’s economy. The group also announced their €1tn seven-year budget. While researchers, politicians and think tanks will be picking through the details as they come forward, both in terms of what it means for the political future and industry of the EU, we must do the same – particularly with a trade deal still to be finalised.

In the mean time, I encourage all to join us in advocating for greater forest planting in the UK and a trade agreement which will allow our industry to continue to flourish.

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