TIMBER PRICES are at an all-time high, offering a 'substantial windfall' for any farmers fortunate enough to have planted productive trees 30-40 years ago.

According to EGGER forestry business development manager Simon Hart, because this incentive to harvest existing mature plantations has come at a time when farmers can also tap into generous grants that cover the cost of new planting, there has never been a better time to plant trees on farms.

"Timber prices have been high for the last few years, but over the last six months they have risen dramatically as demand outstrips supply," said Mr Hart. "At EGGER, we have clients who are routinely felling 500 tonnes/hectare at prices above £50/T.

Remember, this is all profit and timber sales are tax free," he stressed. "Therefore even relatively small blocks are producing substantial profits. For example 10 hectares could produce £250,000 at age 35-40. A real bonus that could help your business now, or a great gift to leave the next generation."

Mr Hart noted that the Scottish Government remains 'totally committed to expanding the productive woodland area in Scotland and excellent grants were available to make that happen.

"Generally these will cover the cost of planting and this is tremendous news for farmers as they have to provide no capital, apart from the land itself," he said. "Integrating forestry and farming is another Government target and the Sheep and Trees Initiative should be of interest to many upland farmers. Under this scheme funding is available to construct up to 1500 metres of new road. This provides access to new woodland, but, if planned carefully, could also assist wider farm access.

"If there has ever been a better time to plant trees on farms, it has certainly not been in my 35-year career."