Following a meeting with Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) Heather Humphreys last week, IFA President Joe Healy has welcomed the commitment from the Minister 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, “Minister Humphreys recognised the shortage of skilled and general labour supply that has emerged in the agriculture sector in recent years. This shortage is restricting the ability of the sector to achieve its growth targets over the next decade.
“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.
IFA Dairy Chairman Tom Phelan and IFA Horticulture Chairman Paul Brophy accompanied the IFA President to the meeting and gave a detailed account of the labour shortage in their sectors, making a concrete case for work permits outside the EEA.