Embrace an expansion of the commercial forest cover in Wales

Forestry and wood processing is the classic sustainable sector; trees harvested to create the everyday wood products that society needs can be replanted in a never-ending cycle. Unlike other sectors, an increase in the economic activity of the forestry sector also delivers additional environmental benefits including biodiversity habitats, recreational facilities, water management and flood prevention as well as cleaning the air we breathe. Modern productive forests are designed to fit the landscape and include a wide range of species and areas managed for biodiversity

Productive forests soak up atmospheric carbon and the timber products from them store the carbon, helping Wales to mitigate against climate change and become more globally responsible.

Welsh timber is high quality, creating a wide range of products Welsh consumers want, the UK is the third largest importer of wood products in the world, we have a huge market for the products right next door. Wood processing companies in Wales say “we would double or treble capacity if the forest timber resource was there to do that”

We should take pride in the sector and support it with clear policies to ensure more home-grown timber is produced in the long-term to meet the increasing demand for timber products forecasted by The European Forest Sector Outlook Study II (2010)1. WWF also this week issued the warning that “UK businesses face a timber supply crunch, amid expectations global demand for timber will treble by 2050 as economies and populations, and their need for wood and paper products, grow”2.

Sadly, since 2001, the area of productive conifer woodland in Wales has decreased by 18,000 ha3 and as a result by 2029 there will be a major fall-off in the long-term supply of timber which could be devastating for wood using businesses and jobs they sustain in Wales4.

The supply crisis has been exacerbated by the failure to meet WG planting targets (because of increased bureaucracy and delays in obtaining permissions to plant trees) and by the lack of restocking with commercial species by NRW on the welsh government owned woodland estate.   NRW has an area of around 5000ha of unstocked land, is continuing to fell 2000ha/year and restocking only 1300ha/year exasperating the problem.

1 The European Forest Sector Outlook Study II 2010-2030. The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

2 https://blogs.wwf.org.uk/blog/habitats/forests/will-the-axe-fall-on-uk-businesses-when-it-comes-to-timber/

3 Woodlands for Wales Indicators 2014-15

4 NFI Statistical Analysis Report 50-year forecast of softwood timber availability

Why the contribution is important

With global demand rising, pressure on timber from overseas is rising. Wales must reduce its demand on imports and ensure a sustainable long-term domestic supply of timber.

The WWF report2 makes a call, to “boost commercial forestry without damaging the other values of woodlands such as wildlife and recreation, the report recommends bringing unused or underused forest back into management and planning forestry at a landscape scale”. It also urges planting trees which have a commercial and wildlife value.

The forestry and wood-using sector in Wales has an annual Gross Value Added (GVA) of £500 million and employs between 8,500 and 11,300 people in Wales3. This could be significantly increased by a programme of productive woodland creation in Wales.

The forestry sector can deliver for the Welsh economy, its environment and society – and deserves to be afforded a much greater priority in policy-making.

Wales has an ideal climate for growing trees and there has never been a stronger case for dramatically increasing the forest area of Wales. Even the public purse will benefit from a change in land use towards forestry, as once established, forestry can deliver a strong economic output and will rely far less on public subsidy.

1 The European Forest Sector Outlook Study II 2010-2030. The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

2 https://blogs.wwf.org.uk/blog/habitats/forests/will-the-axe-fall-on-uk-businesses-when-it-comes-to-timber/

3 Woodlands for Wales Indicators 2014-15

4 NFI Statistical Analysis Report 50-year forecast of softwood timber availability

by martinbishop on August 26, 2016 at 06:42PM

Current Rating

Average score : 4.9
Based on : 30 votes


  • Posted by dougaldriver August 26, 2016 at 23:05

    Trees are the best climate control units in the world. Trees that grow up to be sustainable building materials, tables and cardboard...amazing.
    We need policies that expand our productive woodlands and forests to enhance a future for all.
    Subsidising sheep to denude hills with no climate, carbon or biodiversity benefit must not be continued.
    WG and NRW will fail in its duty to the people if it simply does a CAP cut and paste of policy and intervention.
    Policy makers have a once in a generation chance to take a more sophisticated and evidence based approach.
    More trees please !
  • Posted by Bronwin August 27, 2016 at 10:31

    There is huge potential in Wales to grow our own timber. With the likely decrease in public money coming into the rural sector growing commercial softwoods is one way Wales can become economically more self sufficient.

    There are large areas of land lying between the productive lower lying land and the uplands which currently support sheep at substantial public expense. This land could be planted with trees providing timber as well as other benefits.

    We are relying on Welsh Government to be brave and bold enough to grasp this nettle and deliver effective change. This is the moment and we mustn't miss it.
  • Posted by Stuart August 27, 2016 at 11:24

    Wales has, comparatively speaking, the strongest forestry sector of all the countries in the UK - it makes the greatest contribution per head of population to the economy. At the same time it is the country where there is the greatest loss of productive forestry - threatening this vital rural sector.

    Reversing that decline would deliver a dizzying array of benefits for Wales - relatively well paid rural jobs, reduced atmospheric carbon, more wood for energy-efficient low carbon homes, flood mitigation, greater biodiversity, higher incomes for sheep farmers, and much more.

    It's an obvious thing to do, but the value of Wales' forest sector has not been given the priority it deserves. This has to change and leaving the EU can provide the catalyst for change- a new rural policy and support measures that are driven by Wales' needs.
  • Posted by Peter_Chappell August 31, 2016 at 15:25

    Wales is such a fantastic place for production of quality timber, and as the other commentators note, offers society wider benefits, so it is strange that more commercial tree planting has not been carried out - especially with one of the worlds largest consumers of timber on our doorstep (i.e. England).

    From what I have seen there appear to be two main barriers:

    1. An onerous, expensive and uncertain system of gaining permission to plant trees.
    2. Competition for land from agricultural businesses, which have their income streams propped up by single farm payments.

    Government policy is to plant trees, so please government, just get better at policy implementation!
  • Posted by denvaughan September 01, 2016 at 12:15

    Any expansion of woodland or woodland management must not be at the expense of rare or marginal open habitats that have significant biodiversity and landscape value and are vulnerable due to their lack of commercial productivity; Mature or maturing deciduous woodland also needs protection from inappropriate management and significant areas of 'wildwood' need to be guaranteed throughout the country to ensure its native biodiversity is sustained. Expansion of woodland must also include native hardwoods.

    Comments so far talk of benefits to biodiversity. This occurs in clear-felled or thinned coniferous woodland planting during the first 5 to 10 years but then it virtually vanishes for the next 20-30 years. Considered planting and rotational cropping is required to avoid this 'boom and bust' creation of biodiversity associated with coniferous plantations.

    The massively important tourism market would also benefit from such a considered approach as blanket conifer plantations are not nice places to be in or look at.
  • Posted by WGJD2 September 05, 2016 at 18:06

    Expansion would be desirable but this is Stage 2. Stage 1 is to maintain current levels of commercial forest planting, which is declining in Wales. Forestry is, obviously, a long-term business involving tying up land for 60-150 years for traditional sawlogs (depending on tree species) or say 18-50 years for biomass. The difficulty, given politicians' reputation for short-term decisions, is for the government to create confidence and sufficient incentive to persuade people to commit their land for so long in this way. NRW was catastrophically inefficient in the forestry sector immediately after its creation and at about that time many AMs gave an impression of sad ignorance that there was a Welsh forestry industry at all. Hopefully Government reputation has recovered a bit since then but from a low base with a long way to go.

    Although the need for 2040 onwards is for more softwood (evergreen) planting immediately now today, there's no reason not to incentivise the planting of hardwoods also if that's what people want. But that involves grant aid for the control of grey squirrels if the result is to be successful.

    The kind of thinking required probably starts by asking why government automatically views sheep as more important than trees. Is it just because sheep is the only thing most hill farmers know how to do, or because sheep production is genuinely more beneficial than tree production? Sheep seem at any rate to do more ecological damage than trees.

  • Posted by davidve September 12, 2016 at 14:25

    It is vital that to be truly sustainable woodland creation and restocking has to include a sufficient proportion of commercial conifer species to ensure economic viability. Modern forestry practice can be all things to all people producing a range of timber products for our modern processing industry while at the same time effectively mitigating climate change through substitution and sequestration, enhancing biodiversity and landscape, and providing venues for a range of recreational activities. We need more forests and we need them now!
  • Posted by SoniaW September 12, 2016 at 16:13

    Welsh forests are sustainable and many are independently Certified as such. Welsh forestry is a "good news" story, but the industry is very bad at selling itself and its benefits. We're still reeling from the 1980's when trees were planted in the wrong places, and non-native trees got a bad press. Conifers grow faster and straighter than broadleaves, which is why they were planted in the first place. Woodland creation should include commercial species, to ensure long term sustainable timber production. Home grown timber products replace imports which may be from countries with lower environmental standards. Forestry can and does exist with much lower levels of public funding compared with agriculture. So it's cheaper, whilst also sequestering carbon, reducing flood risk, providing employment, recreational opportunities, and supporting a multi-million pound rural industry in sawmilling and processing. Isn't forestry a win-win? Welsh Government agree we should have more of it - what are we waiting for?
  • Posted by PLloyd September 14, 2016 at 09:21

    Many rural communities rely on the forest industry and its ancillary businesses to survive. If we are to sustain the forestry sector, and therefore the rural economy, through continued investment and growth, it is vital that companies have confidence in the supply chain. To enable this to happen, and secure the future of our industry, we must invest in commercial woodlands. However there are many excellent examples of properly managed commercial forestry operations working hand-in-hand with amenity woodlands - forestry and its benefits are for all, and we need to work as one to secure the long-term future of both our industry and our rural communities.
  • Posted by donaldduck September 19, 2016 at 14:04

    Dear committee you need to be brave and realise that the NRW isn't working for the Forestry part of NRW.
    It should be separated and taken out of the political arena and funded as a separate organisation. WHY because its an exclusive business that's takes many years to get the experience of making the whole of forestry work properly.
    We should NOT be letting all our experienced people leave forestry as they have years of experience that cannot be replaced. (Has anyone asked them why they are leaving !, you should and you will find they are all so disillusioned with the way it is all being run they have all had enough). The forestry section will pay greatly to the Welsh economy if its left alone to work on its own. Don't forget it employs over 11000 people and contributes over 500 million pounds to the economy, and lots of those jobs are in rural wales and without these people working there, the whole rural system would breakdown and collapse.
    All we hear on the TV news is about Tata steel closing with the loss of 3000 jobs at stake or Aston Martin bringing 500 jobs to Wales.
    What about the timber industry !, if it carries on the way You're going, its going to collapse and you will have 10s of thousands of people out of work and the loss of a very very good industry and the destruction of rural Wales.
  • Posted by philwilk September 20, 2016 at 13:36

    More trees please! For all the environmental, climate change mitigation and employment security / creation potential already outlined. Re-stocking rates over recent years are a disgrace and new woodland creation almost non-existence. Now is the time for Welsh Government to lead the way in providing the mechanism to expand the forest resource and admit that the incorporation of Forestry Commission Wales into NRW was a major error. Return the public forest estate to a stand alone body committed to expanding the commercial conifer resource in a manner than ensures the highest environmental standards are maintained and ensure that those of us who work in the word products sector have a future for generations to come.
  • Posted by andrewheald September 22, 2016 at 16:09

    Wales has the best climate for growing trees in the UK - more mixed productive woodlands would help diversify the rural economy, support Welsh saw-milling jobs, improve biodiversity and reduce the impacts of climate change.

    It is essential that Welsh Government holds NRW to account for its management of Wales's forests and regulation of the private sector - the current strategy is resulting in an ever greater reliance on imported timber and threatening the survival of Welsh sawmills - this is unsustainable.

    Scotland is currently reviewing the role of the Forestry Commission and the regulatory process for planting new woodlands - Wales needs to do the same.

  • Posted by UKFPADJS September 22, 2016 at 16:33

    The forestry and forest products sector makes an invaluable contribution to the economic, environmental and social well-being of Wales, especially in rural areas. The sector has an impressive record of continued investment in World-Class wood processing technology, enabling it to compete effectively in a global market and to displace imports. However, unless the forestry activities of Natural Resources Wales, (which is responsible for managing the public forest estate in Wales), are urgently refocused, improved and adequately resourced, the continued success of the sector, which comprises large, medium and small companies producing a wide range of wood products for many markets, will be jeopardised. Continuity of wood supply is essential for these businesses; especially wood supply from the public forest estate. Yet new productive woodland creation has fallen to such low levels that the success of many wood-using businesses in Wales and beyond, (which are already being disadvantaged by the ever-changing direction of NRW), will be jeopardised unless urgent action is taken to increase the creation of new, sustainably managed productive woodlands, thereby ensuring the continued delivery of these benefits for generations to come. The legacy of Forestry Commission Wales as stewards of the unique and valuable public forest estate is now being squandered by NRW, to the detriment of Wales. Time is of the essence and there are undoubtedly great opportunities - the time for action is now!
  • Posted by EllisHuws September 26, 2016 at 12:14

    The problem is, Natural Resources Wales (Forestry Commision) are totally unsuited to have anything to do with trees. The adopt the worst practices: non-native tree planting, clear-cutting and so on. I often see the hills scalped and left like bomb sites by NRW. Commercial timber should be low-intensity, sensitively coppiced, native trees, with only a % taken from each area every year so the forest as a whole (and the wildlife within it) remains. That would be good. The mess the NRW currently leave across the landscape is a shameful desecration.
  • Posted by donaldduck September 26, 2016 at 13:36

  • Posted by donaldduck September 26, 2016 at 13:44

    Franklin D Rosevellt wrote
    Forests are the lungs of our land
    Furifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.
    We must plant more trees for the good health of the people of Wales and future wealth of the next generation.
  • Posted by AlexandraCook September 27, 2016 at 16:04

    Forest are great but they should be truly diverse, allowed to develop for a long time, full of animal life too. They should be accessible for people to encourage tourism but not manicured, otherwise they are only perceived as parks or plantations, not as wilderness.

    And what about food forests, forest farming and silvopasture? In any case, all eggs should never be places in the same basket (talking of either sheep or conifers).
  • Posted by ChrisEmery September 28, 2016 at 17:50

    The continued decrease in the Welsh commercial forests is of significant concern to the timber processing industry. Without a significant increase in replanting we will see reduced capital investment into the sector due to the depleting raw material.
    Wales has the opportunity to increase its forestry cover and in turn increase forestry and timber sector adding valuable jobs to the rural economy.
  • Posted by Tedgell October 13, 2016 at 14:01

    An increase in harvestable and sustainable forest cover is not only critical to ensure existing Welsh processors survive and continue to preserve jobs, but a well considered commercial forest policy based on growth; could generate significant inward investment opportunities.
    The range of timber businesses that could emerge, create high quality skilled jobs and thrive if fuelled by the local supply of a quality Indigenous product is endless.
    Wales has the land & space to invest in one of the worlds most sustainable and environmentally friendly materials, its ability to clean air, prevent floods and lock in carbon is well documented. Economically and politically such a policy should be a 'No Brainer', ticking many moral boxes with the added benefit of significant long term financial rewards for both local economies and the wider Welsh Economy.

    Please please please give Welsh forestry the investment, support and respect that it so deserves.
  • Posted by concernedforester November 14, 2016 at 18:27

    Do we have to reach a crisis before the politicians will act? After the first war when the FC was set up there was recognition of the large imports from the Baltic area to sustain our manufacturing industry and the great loss of forest areas from our Island in war time. As time went on and experience was being gained about the new crops that had been planted we had a second world war which resulted in further realisation of the importance of these new crops to our nations survival and well being. After the war a new resilience was found to find more planting ground.
    By the 1960s many new industries had and were entering the softwood timber usage. The afforestation programmes were progressively growing due to an effective funding. Sadly by the late 1980s the media turned against the industry and the Treasury quickly grabbed the funding so afforestation died. Since then the rot continued in that the state sector allowed all other interested parties have priority over the commercial timber and began to reduce restocking felled areas of conifer either in favour of hardwood or any other excuse to avoid replanting ( red grouse landing strips, environmental areas etc ) .
    Many spin statements were made some even claiming that 100k Ha of afforestation were to be planted within a twenty year period (likely when the spinners had retired) in Wales.
    The facts today are as real as they were in 1919. Wales and the UK grow timber faster than any where else in Europe ( apart from Ireland- which is the same). The UK is the largest importer of timber in Europe over a ten year period. Forestry is a most profitable rural industry in Wales. People consume a vast amount of wood fibre in all ways every year to maintain such a high living standard expected today.
    Finally these forests lock up carbon and provide employment and recreation. What is difficult to understand ?
  • Posted by iwanmeirion November 21, 2016 at 13:53

    Mwy o blannu OGYDd. Mae hyn yn gyfle euraidd i Gymru ehangu ei gorchydd coedwigaeth - nid yn unig i gefnogi bioamrywiaeth a manteision amgylcheddol eraill ond hefyd i sicrhau a hyrwyddo swyddi o fewn y diwydiant.

    Mae'r sector coed yn cyflogi rhwng 8,500 a 11,300 o bobl yng Nghymru. Gallai hyn gael ei gynyddu yn sylweddol drwy raglen o greu coetiroedd cynhyrchiol yng Nghymru.

    Hyd yma mae tir sydd o dan berchnogaeth a rheolaeth y Llywodraaeth (CNC) rhwng 3-5 mlynedd tu ol iw rhaglen ail-stocio. Hynnu yw - os yw CNC yn clirio 10 hectar o goed yn 2016 mae'n bosib nad yw am gael ei ail blannu tan 2021. Golygir hyn fod y "banc tir" coedwigaeth yn gwaethygu ac mae'n hanfodol bwysig fod i sicirhau dyfodol ein diwydiant.

    Mae gan Llywodraeth Cymru darget i weld 100,000 hectar o goetir newydd erbyn 2030. Hyd yma mae "banc tir" sydd heb ei ail blannu yn llawer mwy nag unrhyw dir sydd wedi ei blannu or newydd - ac yn tyfu yn ddyddiol.

  • Posted by SarahecjSmith November 22, 2016 at 15:27

    Dear Committee
    Wales has the best growing conditions for conifer trees in Europe. This should be harvested and grown as it improves a much deprived economy such as Wales. The welsh forestry industry contributes £500 million to the economy and provides tens of thousands of jobs. We should be growing the future for our children and their children providing a sound and commercial economy as well as environmentally benefits for everyone. There are jobs not only in the timber industry but capitalising on tourism gives our economy a much needed boost as people now tend to stay in this beautiful country and see what it has to offer.
    Please do let us lose this world class forestry and all the benefits it brings.
  • Posted by GavinAdkins December 01, 2016 at 09:12

    Availability of newly planted forests in Wales has not kept up with increases in demand & processing capacity over recent years. It is imperative to increase the rate of new planting to achieve the Welsh Government targets and drive the socio-economic opportunities that arise from a vibrant forest products sector which can increasingly contribute to the Welsh rural economy, with good quality rural jobs, climate change & flood mitigation potential and increase recreational provision
  • Posted by CelynMenai February 23, 2017 at 13:45

    Diolch i chi am rannu eich syniadau a sylwadau!

    Mae eich blaenoriaethau a syniadau yn cael eu defnyddio i helpu’r Pwyllgor i ysgrifennu ei adroddiad ar sut y gallwn ddatblygu egwyddorion sy'n sail i bolisi amaethyddiaeth a datblygu gwledig newydd i Gymru. Am ragor o wybodaeth, plîs cysylltwch â fi ar celyn.cooper@cynulliad.cymru. Mi fyddai’n sicr o ddiweddaru’r tudalennau hyn a’r sgwrs fel mae hyn yn datblygu.

    Mae eich syniadau a’ch blaenoriaethau hefyd wedi bod o gymorth i’r Pwyllgor wrth iddo wahodd sefydliadau a chyrff cynrychioliadol i’r Senedd i roi tystiolaeth ar lafar ar ddyfodol amaeth yng Nghymru.

    O ddiddordeb , mae'r Pwyllgor yn rhannu eich diddordeb yn y pwnc, a wedi lansio ymchwiliad newydd i bolisi coedwigoedd a choetiroedd yng Nghymru. Pe bae diddordeb gennych i gymryd rhan, croeso i chi gysylltu neu ymweld â'r wefan yma: http://www.senedd.cynulliad.cymru/mgConsultationDisplay.aspx?ID=252

    Diolch o galon i chi gyd eto!


    Thank you for sharing your idea and comments!

    Your ideas and priorities are now being used to help the Committee write its report on how we can develop principles to underpin a new agriculture and rural development policy for Wales. For more information, please do contact me @ celyn.cooper@assembly.wales. I’ll also make sure to update the pages and this thread to keep you updated as this progresses.

    Your ideas and priorities have also been a great support for the Committee as it invited representative organisations and bodies to come to the Senedd and give oral evidence on the future of agriculture in Wales.

    Of interest, the Committee also shares your interest in this field, and has decided to launch a new inquiry into forestry and woodland policy in Wales. If you have an interest in taking part or contributing, please do get in touch with me or indeed visit the webpage at:

    Thank you again for all your contributions!
Log in or register to add comments and rate ideas