A European hedge fund company could be about to buy up over a hundred thousand acres / 50,000 hectares of rural Ireland as part of a deal to help Coillte meet its climate targets.

The State's forestry agency is aiming to plant up to 250,000 acres of new forests by 2050.

Half of that land will be purchased through a not-for-profit vehicle, with the remaining coming through a partnership with an investment company.

Sligo /Leitrim deputy Marian Harkin says if a Green Minister allows this to happen to rural Ireland, selling off land to a private company, rather than engaging with farmers and local communities, then it will be a disaster for regions across the west and north west.

There are fears the Coillte plans could see the average price of an acre of land for forestry rise from €5,000 to €9,000, resulting in farmers being priced out of buying land.The name of the investment fund has not been confirmed, but it’s understood that it will purchase a portion of Irish agricultural land equivalent to the size of over 1,500 average farms or 50,000 football pitches.

Senior officials from Coillte confirmed to the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee last month (Dec) that it would need access to capital from the private sector to be able to meet its 2050 green target.

The plans would boost climate goals, by capturing 28 million tonnes of carbon from the environment over the next 30 years. They will also produce 25 million cubic meters of timber, which will be used in construction.

Coillte confirmed that it was now at an 'advanced stage' of engagement with a commercial company for the firm to be able to buy the woodland. It would not confirm to the Agriculture Committee the name of the company.

Deputy Harkin has been speaking to Midwest News Editor Teresa O’Malley about why every effort needs to be made to prevent Coillte from completing this deal..because of its inevitable impact on rural Ireland….




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