A crisis is looming on many of the country’s dairy farms due to a likely shortage of workers next spring – the peak of the calving and milking season, the Irish Farmers Association has warned.
It has called on Minister of State Damien English to speedily issue work permits to meet the urgent need. A successful pilot scheme of dairy permits was issued in 2018, but this has expired.
A survey conducted by the IFA, the National Co-Op Farm Relief Services and Farm Solutions estimates that at least 200-300 full-time workers will be needed on dairy farms in 2022.
IFA Dairy Committee chairman Stephen Arthur said unless work permits are cleared, there’s the potential of a critical staff shortage.
“Compared to this time last year, IFA estimate that there has been a 65% drop in the number of applicants for dairy farm vacancies.
“There’s an increasing demand for a skilled workforce to work on our dairy farms which is not being satisfied within the European Union, “he said, stressing the need for access to workers from outside the EU.
Mr Arthur said the shortage of labour in the dairy sector is not unique. The horticulture, pig and poultry sectors have also been seriously impacted, with an insufficient supply of workers.
“Given that the permit process can take in excess of three months, 500 permits need to be introduced immediately to ensure we have sufficient labour on our farms for this coming spring,” he said.
Recruitment firms report a strong appetite among workers from outside the EU to come to work on farms in Ireland.
To date, 15% of applications received by these firms come from outside the EU. This is in stark contrast to the 1% of applicants from other member states.
However, workers from outside the EU are greatly restricted due to existing work permit regulations.
Minister Enright, replying to Dail questions, said a current review of the occupations lists for employment permits is well underway.
Submissions received from a range of sectors, including from the dairy sector, are under active consideration.
“It is expected that the review will be finalised in the coming weeks and any changes necessary to deal with verified skills or labour shortages will be made at that time, he said.