Irish Farmer’s Association (IFA) dairy chair Stephen Arthur has said 500 permits need to be introduced immediately to ensure that dairy farmers have sufficient labour on farms for the coming spring.

A recent survey estimates that at least 200 to 300 full-time workers are needed on dairy farms next spring.

Compared with this time last year, the IFA estimates that there has been a 65% drop in the number of applicants for dairy farm vacancies.

Arthur commented: “A successful pilot scheme of dairy permits was issued in 2018, but this has expired.

“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.

Strong appetite

“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.

There’s the potential of a critical staff shortage on many dairy farms next year

“There’s an increasing demand for a skilled workforce to work on our dairy farms, which is not being satisfied within the EU, and we need access to workers from outside the EU,” he insisted.

“However, workers from outside the EU are greatly restricted due to existing work permit regulations.

“Unless work permits are cleared, there’s the potential of a critical staff shortage on many dairy farms next year,” he added.

The survey was carried out by the IFA, National Co-Op Farm Relief Services and Farm Solutions.