New Confor report – Upland forestry Wales, (Welsh Analysis of Land-use Economics & Subsidies)

Posted on July 22, 2015 by

Confor Wales recently commissioned a report comparing the financial returns of forestry in the Welsh Uplands with the financial returns of farming on a similar area

Confor exists to promote to forestry and wood, and represents around 2000 forest and wood-using businesses across the UK, including Wales.

The report, which can be downloaded here, shows there are potentially much greater returns from forestry that landowners can benefit from.

The report was presented to Carl Sargeant Minister for Natural Resources at the Royal Welsh Show.

Forestrys great opportunity for Welsh upland Farmers

As a result Farmers in the Welsh Uplands have been urged to diversify their operations by planting more trees which could deliver significantly greater economic benefits than farming.

A report by SAC Consulting, covering 4000 hectares of woodland and 4000 hectares of farmland, mainly in the South Cambrian and Upper Corris regions, indicated that once established, productive conifer forestry delivers around five times the economic output of farming before subsidy.

On being presented with the report, Mr Sargeant expressed an interest in a similar study carried out in the Scottish Uplands, which also showed significantly greater benefits for forestry and asked the forestry sector to commission a similar study in Wales.

The annual economic output of forestry in the Welsh study area was £5.83 million, compared to £1.2 million for farming. Spending in the local economy in the forestry study area was twice that of farming, while forestry employment was 60 per cent higher than farming.

The report was commissioned by the Welsh committee of Confor: Promoting forestry and wood, which represents almost 2000 forestry and wood-using businesses across the UK.

Responses from forestry and farming organisations

Confor Chief Executive Stuart Goodall said:

“This research by respected consultants demonstrates that productive softwood forestry is a very significant economic activity in rural Wales – and a real economic opportunity for Welsh upland farmers.

“It provides an opportunity for those farmers to successfully diversify their businesses, deliver more for the environment, create shelter belts for livestock, enhance biodiversity – and reduce reliance on public subsidy in the longer term.”

The report showed that annual output per hectare is £83.72 before subsidy for forestry compared to a deficit of £109.50 before subsidy for farming.

Iwan Meirion, Chairman of Wales Young Farmers’ Clubs said

“As an organisation that represents the future generation of farming within Wales we welcome this report. It is important that our members, as future ‘managers’ of the land are provided with information that not only provokes discussion within their own families and businesses but allows them to make sensible financial decisions.”

Iwan added that “I am reassured that Confor are not exploring the possibility of replacing high productive agricultural land with forests but exploring other possibilities of diversification for upland farmers.”

Martin Bishop, Wales Manager for Confor, emphasised that the report was not a call to blanket the hills with trees. He said:

“Let’s be very clear: we do not want to plant trees on high-quality agricultural land. We want farmers to consider planting trees on marginal land which is not delivering as much as it should be.”

He added:

“Planting more trees can deliver for the Welsh environment, society and economy – and we really hope Mr Sergeant and his colleagues will take these important messages on board.

The statistics in the report reflects a strong timber market, and recognise the relative benefits will narrow as timber prices become less buoyant. However, the long-term economic output of forestry is still predicted to be 1.5 times that of farming, while employment is estimated to be broadly the same – but relatively higher, as woodland creation tends to happen on poorer quality agricultural land, which supports very few jobs.

Video to accompany report

Confor has produced a video – Integrated Forestry and Farming in Wales – which uses real examples to illustrate why woodland creation is a viable option on marginal land for Welsh farmers.

John Warburton Lee, who farms at Gilar just outside Snowdonia National Park, has planted woodland in a rocky area of his 500-hectare farm – with positive results. He said:

“It made good sense to take some of the less productive agricultural areas and put them into coniferous woodland. It has dramatically benefited the farm, and made it more interesting, more bio-diverse and more productive.”

The video is introduced by Rebecca Evans AM, Deputy Minister for Food and Farming, who says: “By planting areas of unproductive, marginal land with trees, owners can have a win-win scenario of shelter for livestock, an increase in biodiversity, better management of water and a highly valuable commercial crop of timber in future years.”

For more information, or to arrange an interview with Confor, contact Martin Bishop on 07876 029482 or Stef Kaiser on 0131 240 1420


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