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Mission to Asia to recruit experienced dairy operatives as pressure mounts on farmers

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Phillip Kenny, general manager of FRS for Kilkenny Carlow District, said at least 300 work visas are needed to meet demand — three times the non-EEA visa quota provided to the dairy sector for 2022

Phillip Kenny, general manager of FRS for Kilkenny Carlow District, said at least 300 work visas are needed to meet demand — three times the non-EEA visa quota provided to the dairy sector for 2022

Phillip Kenny, general manager of FRS for Kilkenny Carlow District, said at least 300 work visas are needed to meet demand — three times the non-EEA visa quota provided to the dairy sector for 2022

Farm Relief Services are planning to travel to Asia to recruit experienced dairy operatives to stabilise the sector’s labour woes.

As the busy spring calving season gets underway, Phillip Kenny, general manager of FRS for Kilkenny Carlow District, said “there is no point waiting” for the Department of Enterprise to potentially introduce more non-EEA work visas for 2023.

It comes as farmer sources have indicated that payment rates currently being offered to operators on dairy farms range between €13 and €18 per hour.

Mr Kenny outlined the extent of the labour shortage gripping the southeast. “It’s very tight,” he said. “We’d have a lot of people working all the time, but to get the extra 10 or 12 is the problem. The pressure is mounting on farmers. Rates are not the issue; farmers are more concerned about finding someone who can do the job.”

Mr Kenny said at least 300 work visas are needed to meet demand three times the non-EEA visa quota provided to the dairy sector for 2022.

Now FRS Kilkenny Carlow District is taking matters into their own hands. “The workers just don’t seem to be in Europe; there is no point bringing in people who don’t have a clue, who must watch videos on how to milk a cow,” said Mr Kenny.

 

“There seems to be people in Bangladesh, the Philippines and India who have worked on dairy farms in Saudi Arabia. Our management committee have said to me to go out to one of those countries and see who I can recruit.

“There is no point waiting for people to apply. We went out years ago during the Celtic Tiger for workers for the building industry, so we have some experience.

“A lot of time will have to be spent with these people to get them acclimatised to an Irish farm, the weather, training, driving a tractor, accommodation, transport, but I think a lot of people from those poorer countries would be made up to come here.

“We’re a co-op with 360 farmer shareholders, the first thing we were set up to do was to supply labour to farmers, we have to keep this right. I can’t see this working any other way.”

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