Work permits for farm workers from outside the EU to be prioritised due to shortage - IFA
Close to 3,000 extra jobs will be needed over the next decade on dairy farms
Farmers have welcomed a commitment from the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) Heather Humphreys that her Department is treating the review of the criteria for issuing work permits for farm workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) as a matter of urgency.
The IFA President said that the shortage of labour supply in farming, particularly in the dairy, horticulture, pig and poultry sectors, is now a crisis on farms and the Minister’s move to prioritise the farming and agriculture sector in the short-term, is positive.
Joe Healy said, that in a meeting with the IFA Minister Humphreys recognised the shortage of skilled and general labour supply that has emerged in the agriculture sector in recent years.
“We were informed at the meeting with the Minister that the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation has received an extensive report from the Department of Agriculture to support the case being made to allow work permits to be issued to non-EU citizens and that priority will be given to this.
"The DBEI is aiming to have this review completed by end of March or early April, which would then give the go-ahead to Minister Humphreys to regulate for this.”
The IFA delegation stressed to the Minister the importance of having this new work permit system in place by April, to alleviate the pressures on mushroom, vegetable and soft fruit farms in particular for the busy months ahead.
The DBEI is carrying out a review of the employment permits system across all sectors, which is being steered by an Inter-Departmental Group. This review will include a public consultation to be concluded by June of this year.
Teagasc director Professor Gerry Boyle recently said dairy farmers are facing an "unparalleled situation" in terms of labour and the challenges ahead.
"The number of dairy herds with over 100 cows has risen to nearly 50pc. That's up from 13pc in 2005.
"Close to 3,000 extra jobs will be needed over the next decade on dairy farms and that clearly is going to create issues of where that labour is going to come from and also the training of that labour," he said.
Although Prof Boyle highlighted the positive side of job creation in the sector, he says the issue of managing farm labour has been neglected for "far too long".
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