Forestry body Confor calls for support after 'virulent' Phytophthora ramorum hits more larch in Scotland

Forestry body Confor has called on the Scottish government to liase with the forestry industry after findings that the extent of Phytophthora ramorum in larch in southwest Scotland this spring is on a massive scale, with the virulent EU2 strain confirmed.

Confor wants the Scottish Government to support woodland owners to ensure re-stocking takes place.

Scotland manager Jamie Farquhar said: "We knew the writing was on the wall for more bad news this year, but are shocked like everyone else to learn the true extent of the new outbreak areas in southwest Scotland, particularly in Galloway. 

"This is going to impact severely on private sector woodland owners, as well as on the national forest estate and create real challenges for the industry as a whole.

"Confor asked for inclusion of industry members in the recent meeting convened by Forestry Commission Scotland for its staff, when they met with key players from Forest Research and FC’s Plant Health Service, to agree the necessary reaction to such an enormous game-change. 

"Until now, we have been able to deal with the problem, albeit unwelcome, in a measured and professional way.  But the sheer scale of the new, known infected areas means that the Scottish Timber Market Impact Group (which brings together FC and industry) will have some big challenges to consider in terms of how to contain spread of infection, harvesting and marketing the large volumes of additional timber that will become available, and avoiding deforestation."

Confor chief executive Stuart Goodall added: "The domestic wood industry has had great success recently in winning significant market share. That has been achieved through investment and good customer service, aided by the relative weakness of sterling. However, the market is predominantly spruce, and absorbing and marketing significant proportions of larch poses a challenge, and one that is exacerbated when sawmills face higher handling costs and there are limitations on where to sell bark."

He said:  "Sadly, some infected larch crops will be inaccessible, immature, or plainly uneconomic to harvest.  In all cases, the woodland owners will face financial losses for complying with Statutory Plant Health Notices to fell these larch stands, and by necessity, some adjoining crops. 

"Confor has made early representations to Scottish Government that it needs to provide adequate financial support for these losses and the cost of subsequent replanting, at least as good as is presently funded in England, so that we do not face deforestation issues - the double whammy of loss of the current crop, and non-existence of a successor. Future wood supply is already a priority for the industry and a failure to act on P. ramorum will only add to the problem."   

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