SINN Féin MEP Matt Carthy has called for full transparency on the workings of a private forestry fund which he claims is having a negative impact on Irish farmers.
Last year the European Investment Bank (EIB) backed an initiative with the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund to push for new investment in privately owned Irish forests.
However, Mr Carthy said more transparency is needed on the fund that is only open to large-scale capital investors and is “driving farmers off the land”.
“I asked Andrew McDowell of the EIB specifically how many low-cost loans have been approved, how much money has already been disbursed, and what regions were being targeted by investors,” he said. “This is information the European Commission and the Irish Government have already refused to furnish. Again, Mr McDowell refused to disclose information on this fund.”
Mr Carthy said that since the fund is only offered to companies, it is putting local farmers at a disadvantage and having a negative impact on them. “Investors can outbid farmers and locals and are doing so with supports that aren’t available to farmers,” said Mr Carthy.
“It’s disappointing that there’s an Irish government policy that allows this to happen. They’re putting no rules in place to protect farming land from threats from speculators.”
A spokesperson from the EIB said: “EIB financing for forestry only covers afforestation investment and not the purchase of land, and all projects financed by the EIB must be approved by the respective Member State.
“The independent EIB complaints department will investigate any complaint suggesting that an EIB-financed project violates national or European law.”Meanwhile, IFA forestry chair Pat Collins has called for almost 200,000 hectares of land that is technically suitable for afforestation to be made available to achieve forestry targets.