Coillte has revealed that Farm Forestry Partners who are still awaiting a payment from the company will receive their money within the next week.
The commercial forestry company released a statement to That’s Farming to provide an update on an exclusive investigation led That’s Farming a number of weeks ago into farm forestry partnerships which date back to the 1990’s.
Concerned individuals who entered into these contracts came forward to inform That’s Farming that they were locked out of their own properties, were left to question the transparency of the company and were also waiting for thinning’s income contrary to today’s industry standards.
The company responded in a statement to That’s Farming, stressing that the vast majority of the 630 partnerships it entered with farmers between 1993 and 2012 are “working well and as intended”. As a result of a review announced in December and which is ongoing, Coillte believes there are less than 10 complex issues with partnerships to be resolved.
Coillte said that they acknowledge that some partners have been frustrated at the level of communication they have received and apologises for this. It wants to assure its partners that it is taking active steps to address this situation. Coillte has engaged the services of KPMG to help it improve the quality and level of information provided to farmers, particularly in relation to payments and how they are calculated.
Gerard Murphy, Managing Director Forestry at Coillte, says “We have partnerships with over 630 farmers and the vast majority of these are working well. These agreements date back to 1993 and were innovative in their design to promote afforestation and maximise grants and payments for landowners. Our intention was that farmers would get paid and also benefit from the full forest management and operations expertise of Coillte.”
“We have acknowledged that there have been some problems in relation to payments with a very small number of partners and this will be rectified with payments within the next week” Mr Murphy added.
“We are now working to improve the transparency, quality and level of information that we provide to our farm partners on an ongoing basis. From this year all partners will get an annual statement which will include payments made, any payments that are due and the basis for the calculations. KPMG are reviewing the payment calculation system to verify that it is in line with the contract.” said Mr Murphy.
In December, Coillte wrote to all of its farm partners to inform them it had set up a dedicated helpline they could call and discuss their concerns with the forestry company. All calls have been logged and Coillte committed to respond within two weeks, the statement released to That’s Farming read.
Since mid-December, it has received approximately 55 calls to the helpline. Coillte claim that of these, around 25 issues were resolved and around 20 are on track to be resolved. They added by saying that “around 8 more complex cases have been identified which will have to be dealt with on a case by case basis through engagement with the Partner.”