TD Michael Fitzmaurice has spoken out the recent announcement of the entry of Finnish based investment firm Dasos Capital to the Irish forestry market.
The entry of the business it is feared will drive demand for forestry land even higher and price farmers out of the market.
"Late last week it came to my attention that the European Investment Bank was backing a venture with Finland based Venture Capital firm Dasos Capital to invest in Forestry in Ireland as part of a wider announcement on the forestry sector that was made. My worst fears were confirmed this week when I got written confirmation from Dasos Capital that they would not be lending to landowners here to pursue planting, rather their strategy would be to purchase lands and have the larger forestry companies here manage their holdings for them" Fitzmaurice said.
Prices for forestry land are now expected to rise by some €500 an acre as demand increases.
Dasos will lead a fund with aims to invest €112m into Irish forestry.
"We again face into a situation where European policy making coupled with our own governments' insistence on encouraging the plantation of land will result in the widespread afforestation of rural regions. Farmers will find it almost impossible to complete for land holdings against these big multinationals. It will make farming an even more difficult venture for many smaller farmers and indeed younger farmers into the future and it is a short-sighted policy by our Government and the EU" he said.
Fitzmaurice continued by saying:
This policy means that our resources will be further denuded as big private companies come in buying up land for forestry to the detriment of local communities and farm families. We have seen vulture funds coming in to this country buying up property in recent years to the detriment of mortgage holders those with distressed loans. In the programme for Government it was agreed that a review of forestry policy was to take place but this new venture ensures that any such review will not now happen. In fact the Government have actually welcomed this new forestry venture. Large parts of what was agreed in the programme for Government is not worth the paper it is written on as far as I can see with every passing week."
Farmers in county Leitrim have been the test case in many cases in relation to forestry many cannot afford to buy land for agricultural use anymore due to all land for sale being bought by forestry interests.