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HomeBeefNeed for ‘concerted’ action from gov to increase farm labour supply
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Need for ‘concerted’ action from gov to increase farm labour supply

The difficulty in sourcing labour for farms in Ireland is “unlikely” to improve in the short-term, Colin Donnery, Group CEO of FRS Network, has warned.

His remarks come in response to the publication of results from the first comprehensive survey on Irish farming attitudes to labour needs.

Independent market research company, Opinions, on behalf of FRS Farm Relief, supported by FBD Trust, collected results from 252 farms nationwide between July and October 2022.

Labour for farms 

FRS Farm Relief forecasts “an even more challenging year” for farm labour in 2023.

The rise to near full employment in the country, coupled with rising costs across the economy, will have serious implications for the market and ultimately will be felt by farms across Ireland, he warned.

This is, he added, further exacerbated by the limited number of permits that have been provided for agricultural workers to come to Ireland – only 150 were made available in 2022.

He commented: “As this survey highlights, a significant majority of Irish farmers have experienced difficulties securing sufficient labour for their farms this year.”

“Two-thirds of Irish farmers have encountered this problem. Another 3 out of 4 say they cannot find labour with all the skills they need.”

“This is the first time a survey of this detail on farm labour has been undertaken, and these are startingly figures.”

“To have so many farmers finding the situation so difficult this year should come as an eye opener to anyone concerned about the productivity of Irish agriculture and the welfare of the Irish farming community.”

Work/life balance

He said with 6 out of 10 farmers already feeling the pressure on their work/ life balance and one in three unwilling to recommend farming as a lifestyle to their families and friends; these are “clearly challenging times” for Irish farming.

The survey highlights that Irish farms already need support when it comes to hoof care, operating machinery, milking, cow pregnancy scanning and artificial insemination.

He believes that these needs are “likely to grow” in the face of the new emission requirements that have been introduced, creating more demands on Irish farmers.

FRS Farm Relief has recently announced its efforts to grow its panel of farm workers by 300 over the course of the next year.

It already maintains a panel of 1,200 farm operatives supporting 5,000 farms across Ireland.

“We hope this will help alleviate some of the pressure on the farms we work with.”

“However, if these challenges are going to be addressed, then there will have to be concerted action from the government to increase the supply of farm labour and to ensure there is sufficient labour available for farms all over Ireland that need it,” Donnery concluded.

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