IFA President Joe Healy has called on Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys and Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed to move immediately to make changes to the pilot employment permit scheme which will address the rapidly worsening labour and skills shortages for dairy, horticulture, pigs and poultry farms.
“We have already made strong and detailed business cases for this in the last six weeks in sector-specific submissions to the Departments of Agriculture and Enterprise. Farmers need 200 extra permits for dairy, 125 for pigs/poultry and some amendments to ensure the scheme is fit for purpose for the various sectors, including the highly seasonal demands of horticulture,” he said.
“IFA submits to the review for the recruitment of workers from outside the EU/EEA twice a year, every year. Though the country is now at full employment, farm workers continue to be considered ineligible in the system,” Mr Healy said.
“After strong evidence was put forward by the sector’s stakeholders of the rapidly worsening challenges of recruiting within the Irish and EU/EEA labour markets, Minister Humphreys recognised the validity of our arguments and in June last year opened a pilot scheme to make available 50 dairy assistant and 500 horticulture worker permits. The pig and poultry farming sectors, inexplicably, were left out, while the meat processing sector was initially allocated 250 permits, now increased to 1,500, with more to come,” he added.
“All 50 dairy assistant permits have now been taken up, and a number of dairy farm employers have applications in the system based on identified workers who simply won’t wait around. More prospective dairy farm employers would also apply to secure their labour needs well ahead of next spring’s busiest season. Poultry and pig farmers, whose sectors are expanding reflecting increased domestic consumption and market opportunities in China, need to be able to avail of their own quota of permits. Finally, farm employers in the horticulture sector need amendments to the scheme for it to better fit their particular, highly seasonal mix of skilled and unskilled positions,” he said.
“Ministers Humphreys and Creed showed their understanding of agriculture’s labour shortages when the pilot scheme was introduced last year. They must now show greater urgency in delivering the additional work permits that farmers are crying out for,” he concluded.