Damien English, Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, must act now to prevent a staff crisis on dairy farms next spring.
That is the stark warning the IFA issued following the release of findings from a survey it conducted with Farm Solutions and FRS (Farm Relief Services).
The survey estimates that dairy farms will need at least 200-300 full-time workers next spring.
Staff crisis on dairy farms
IFA dairy chairman, Stephen Arthur, said unless work permits are cleared, there is the potential of a critical staff shortage on many dairy farms next year.
Compared to this time last year, IFA estimate that there has been a 65% drop in the number of applicants for dairy farm vacancies.
IFA will meet Minister Damien English on Wednesday to discuss the urgent need for work permits.
“There is an increasing demand for a skilled workforce to work on our dairy farms which is not being satisfied within the EU. We need access to workers from outside the EU.”
He stressed that 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.”
“Business Minister Damien English has to launch this pilot scheme again to satisfy demand. 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.
He added that 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 EU Member States. However, workers from outside the EU are greatly restricted due to existing work permit regulations.”
The government issued a successful pilot scheme of dairy permits in 2018, but this has since expired.