'Young guys want to do other things than drive tractors now': Contractors in global hunt for drivers

Labour shortages biting across all farm sectors

Contractors are encountering major difficulties recruiting machinery drivers.
Contractors are encountering major difficulties recruiting machinery drivers.
Business Minister Heather Humphreys. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

Labour pressures are biting as farmers, contractors and processors all face major shortages ahead of the busy summer period.

Michael Moroney, chief executive of the Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI), said the situation has deteriorated over the past year with major difficulties recruiting machinery drivers.

"Young guys want to do other things than drive tractors now," he said.

FCI will be in contact with Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) Heather Humphreys again shortly seeking 50 permits to get drivers from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

Mr Moroney said some permits were issued last week, however, none were given for agricultural machinery operatives.

"It is an issue for contractors all around the country. There isn't the scope to offer the same money as the construction sector."

Tom Kirwan runs a self-propelled harvesting and baled silage contracting outfit from his base in Kill, Co Waterford.

It is a family run business with a reputation for reliability and at the peak of the season the Kirwan outfit employs between seven and eight staff.

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Where possible the team try to hire staff who come from a farming background because they tend to know a bit more about looking after machinery.

They tend to have a few farmers' sons driving for the outfit who come back for work each season. "Finding reliable drivers isn't easy these days, so I try to look after the lads in terms of proper wages and decent conditions," says Tom.

Meat Industry

Meat Industry Ireland (MII) said availability of labour remains a major issue for meat processing facilities throughout the country. Cormac Healy said it had highlighted the critical nature of the situation and sought employment permits for meat processing over the past 18 months. He highlighted that the situation has deteriorated since last year where processors estimated 2,000 work permits were needed.

Mr Healy said 1,500 permits have been secured to date but they understand this has now "more or less been exhausted".

Figures from DBEI show 495 permits were issued for deboners since 2015, with the majority from Brazil and Ukraine.

Labour issues continue to be reported across the farming sector, particularly in dairy, horticulture, pig and poultry sectors.

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