Northern Ireland Minister supports global manifesto on wood use

23 February 2022

Confor has welcomed strong support for a coordinated approach to increased tree planting and greater wood use by Northern Ireland’s Forestry Minister, Edwin Poots, during a visit to a large wood processing site.

The Minister, who has forestry within his broad Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs portfolio, visited Balcas Timber Ltd, near Enniskillen, to support Time for Timber, the global wood manifesto, launched last year to coincide with COP26 in Glasgow. 

Minister Poots said: “I am pleased to visit Balcas to welcome and offer support to the Global Wood Manifesto being promoted by Confor. This initiative calls on those involved in the use of harvested wood products to expand their markets to make much greater use of wood in the built environment. 

“Supply of renewable timber from our local forests for commercial processing into high- quality and high-value building products generates significant economic activity in predominantly rural areas. 

“Expanding this high-value market for locally-grown timber is an important element to underpin the forestry expansion programme here in Northern Ireland necessary to address our climate change challenges and deliver the wider biodiversity and health and well-being benefits that forests and woodlands provide.” 

Andy Leitch, Confor Deputy Chief Executive, who joined the Minister on the visit, said: “I’m delighted that the Minister, and Northern Ireland, have a strong focus on the value of trees and forests, not least because of the immense contribution wood products can make in the development of a low carbon economy. 

“Trees and wood can play a vital role in mitigating climate change. Trees soak up carbon as they grow, wood products store carbon - and using more wood can substitute carbon-heavy materials like concrete and steel. 

“Therefore, to use even more wood, we need to grow more trees - and I welcome Northern Ireland’s ambitions to increase its woodland cover and integrate tree planting as part of agricultural and rural activity.” 

Brian Murphy, CEO of Balcas Ltd, which employs 380 people, said: “Balcas believes that sustainably-managed forests are critical for our future. We were delighted to host the Minister here today and show him how we utilise timber and wood fibre within our sustainable business.  

“In addition to manufacturing timber products for the building sector, Balcas uses the residuals from its timber manufacture to generate all its own electricity, exporting its surplus to the grid.  

“Heat left over from generation is captured to make carbon-neutral wood pellet fuel. Balcas is the UKs largest wood pellet manufacturer and Balcas’s pellets have displaced the oil equivalent of more than three super tankers over the past decade and a half. 

“Balcas’ activity aligns with mitigating climate change. It provides significant employment rooted in rural communities - supporting livelihoods and stimulating spending in many businesses in and around Enniskillen and Invergordon.”