As a result of lobbying on the part of the timber industry delays in the granting of tree-felling licenses in Ireland (thus leading to a potential shortage of wooden pallets for exporters) have now been tackled with the Cabinet recently approving a number of forestry sector reforms to reduce this backlog.
Coillte, the semi-State body, had warned that the licensing delay could lead to shortages of wood and thousands of layoffs in the timber industry.
Timcon, the UK-based industry body representing major manufacturers in both the Irish and UK sectors, had also warned the Irish Government in a detailed submission sent to the Junior Agriculture Minister here Pippa Hackett.
Over 8,000 Irish exporters use wooden pallets for exporting their goods providing the Irish pallet manufacturing industry with a turnover of around €130 million.
“Ultimately we feel that there’s a real risk that there will be supply shortages in the latter part of this year and most definitely Q1 2021,” stated Timcon’s President John Dye who urged that legislation be implemented here urgently “to ensure that work can commence immediately to reduce the massive backlog of applications”.
It’s understood that at least 2,000 forestry jobs were under direct threat because of a licensing and appeals logjam that threatened to bring the entire sector to a halt.
“The backlog in appeals is hugely damaging to the forestry industry and it needs to be dealt with urgently as job losses are imminent and an industry which supports 12,000 mainly rural jobs in Ireland and contributes €2.3 billion to the economy is at immediate risk,” agreed the Junior Minister.
Around 90% of the world’s goods are transported on wooden packaging material which “means that any disruption to the suppliers will have an almost immediate effect on a country’s economy if goods cannot be exported,” the Timcon President warned Pippa Hackett.
In the case of Ireland this would be most unwelcome, he stated.
“There’s an ongoing issue with regard to selling licences for trees which has reached a backlog caused by the CoronavirusLockdown,” explained Timcon’s spokesman Dominic Weaver.
“That was one issue. The other issue is the situation with regard to borders & ISM15 after Brexit.”
From a plant health point-of-view, pallets that move between the EU and the US, for example, need to be ISM15-compliant; they need to eradicate any ingrained pests by warming the wood up in a kiln to dry it out and kill any resident pests in pallets coming to or from the US/EU.
The risk of this within the EU itself is deemed to be negligible because there are no widespread incidences of pests. But with the UK leaving EU it then takes on ‘Third country’ status and while the risk of pest infection remains unchanged, World Trade Organisation rules dictate that the wood must be heat-treated for any pallets going into the EU and vice-versa.
“When those pallets cross borders they have to be heat-treated to ISM15 standards,” explained Dominic Weaver, “This issue is being talked about with regard to it’s enforcement in the UK & EU.
“If agreement isn’t reached it could cause considerable delays to shipments in both directions.”
The whiskey industry tends to use heat-treated pallets already for its exports from Ireland.
“At the beginning of the year the focus was on getting some kind of clarity on enforcement,” said Dominic Weaver, “We still think now that an agreement is the most desirable arrangement to have in that the EU doesn’t enforce inspections on pallets between the UK and Ireland and vice-versa but we do suggest that suppliers have decent stocks of ISM15 pallets available.”