Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots recently visited Fermanagh business Balcas Timber Ltd, to support 'Time for Timber' – a global wood manifesto launched by Confor last year to coincide with the international COP26 conference being held 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."

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

Andy Leitch, Deputy Chief Executive, Confor, who joined Minister Poots on the visit, said: “I’m delighted that Minister Poots and Northern Ireland have a strong focus on the value of trees and forests.

“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 such as concrete and steel.

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

Brian Murphy, Chief Executive Officer, Balcas Ltd, said: “Balcas believes that sustainably-managed forests are critical for our future.

"We were delighted to host the Minister here 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 [national power] grid.

"Heat left over from generation is captured to make carbon-neutral wood pellet fuel.

"Balcas is the UK's 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.

He continued: "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.”