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Government aware of close to 200 horticulture staff flown to Ireland on chartered flight to pick strawberries


In a statement, the Irish company said that it is “essential” to have adequate staffing on their farms (PA)

In a statement, the Irish company said that it is “essential” to have adequate staffing on their farms (PA)

In a statement, the Irish company said that it is “essential” to have adequate staffing on their farms (PA)

Close to 200 horticulture staff were flown to Ireland on a chartered flight into Dublin Airport to pick strawberries.

189 workers arrived from Sofia in Bulgaria on Monday on chartered Ryanair flight FR6015 to work on Keelings strawberry farms.

In a statement, the Irish company said that it is “essential” to have adequate staffing on their farms.

“It is essential that we have adequate staffing on the farm to pick crops quickly as they ripen, or we risk shortages in the market.

“We can confirm that a number of skilled horticulture staff have returned to Ireland to work with Keelings. We are also recruiting for local workers to join us in picking our crops on the farm along with other roles in the Keelings business,” the statement read.

It added that “seasonal workers” have been a “very important part” of its workforce for “many years”.

“Without these seasonal workers it would be impossible to bring fresh Irish strawberries to the Irish market. We understand the concern in the current environment regarding both social distancing and local employment.

“We want to assure the public that we are doing all we can to help support local employment at this time and to ensure the safety of all our workers,” Keelings said.

According to the company, workers will restrict their movements for 14 days as per HSE guidelines before they begin work.

“We again want to assure people that no horticulture worker coming from another region will be asked to work without a full 14 days restricted movement.”

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The company added that it has worked “tirelessly” across the business to implement HSE guidelines.

“This includes thorough & repeated Covid19 safety coaching and instruction to follow all the HSE guidelines, which includes 14 days of restricted movement for any new arrivals in the country, prior to starting work in Keelings.”

The Government responded today saying that they were aware that a chartered flight brought 190 people to Ireland this week for fruit picking work.

They said that the number of people travelling to Ireland to work has fallen drastically and that seasonal agricultural workers are critical to the sector.

"The number of people travelling to Ireland has fallen by more than 95% since the start if the Covid-19 Emergency," they said in a statment.

"The Irish border, including airports, remains open to support the supply chain for essential cargo and essential workers, as well as the repatriation of our citizens.

"Seasonal workers are critical to the agricultural sector in terms of harvesting, planting and tending functions, especially in the current season.

"The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has been working closely with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to ensure employers are aware of the supports for business to help them source labour from the domestic economy."

As a result of the shortfall of incoming workers, the Government said that they will be commencing a recruitment drive in the coming weeks

"A national recruitment campaign will start shortly with the aim of recruiting a large number of temporary workers for the Horticulture sector from the live register within Ireland. This campaign will be timed for the Fruit harvest peaking in mid-May to Mid-June and the Vegetable harvest from Mid-June.

"Anyone arriving from outside Ireland must comply with the Department of Health guidelines with regard to COVID 19 requirements and restrict movements for 14 days."

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