Coillte Farm Partnership Landowners left without payment

Coillte, the State-owned forestry department, has stated that they will ‘work very hard to regain the trust of landowners’ in relation to non-payment to landowners who entered into farm-forest partnerships with it over 20 years ago.

Coillte have entered into over 630 partnerships with farmers on an estimated 12,000 hectares of lands since 1993.  These partnerships are comprised of around 30 different schemes based on various principles.

Coillte have stated that they have harvested timber from some farmers’ forests without paying them the agreed fee.

Farmers who entered into the farm partnerships with Coillte were due to get annual payments after 20 years from thinning, which is a process that sees weaker trees removed to improve the future value of the timber.  Thinnings harvested from 16 to 20 years in the life of a plantation are typically used as pulpwood in panel products made by Coillte’s own mills.

Speaking to RTE Radio, Gerald Murphy, Managing Director of Coillte Forestry said some crops were highly productive and were thinned earlier.

“We went in earlier it was well maintained and managed. But there was a disconnect between that and the payment system. We are working very hard to rectify the situation,”

he said.

There are over 630 farm partners throughout Ireland, and according to Gerard Murphy, most of these are paid on time, however there are some issues around the payment system for a small number of farmers/landowners.

Mr Murphy stated that although the majority of the approximately 630 Coillte farm-forest partnerships are performing well, a number of issues have arising around communications, transparency and the methodology around how payments are calculated.

Some landowners claim that they have been due forestry income for up to three years, and are having issues trying to sell their interest in the partnership, as they have been left with a gap in income due to non-payment.

Coillte have recently engaged KPMG to validate how it calculates and makes payments to its farm-forest partners.