The Forestry Commission (FC) has come under fire for agreeing to source up to two million commercial conifer plants from Irish state forester Coillte.

Mike Harvey, managing director of Maelor Nurseries in Wales, said the contract to supply the plants over three years could lead to hardship for UK producers.

Mr Harvey claims the trees are subsidised because Coillte receives EU funding: ‘It’s a very aggressive, predatory act against producers in the UK,’ he said.

However, Coillte’s nurseries general manager Pat Long said the EU funding did not affect the FC contract and was for Irish new planting only. ‘It’s an open market situation,’ he added.

Bob McIntosh, chief executive of the FC, said: ‘We have to be seen to be getting the best value for money from our contracts. It’s not for us to take into account any EU funding or alleged distortion of the market.’