IFA president Tim Cullinan has reacted to the announcement of changes to the employment permits system for workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA).
He said: “It is positive to see some progress on this urgent issue. The IFA has lobbied continuously on this matter for months. There’s an increasing demand for a skilled workforce on Irish farms, which is not satisfied within the EU.
“The dairy, horticulture, pig and poultry sectors have all been seriously impacted due to an insufficient supply of workers.”
IFA dairy chair Stephen Arthur acknowledged the introduction of 100 permits for dairy farm assistants but said it is not enough.
“We lobbied the Department for 500 permits. This is a positive first step upon which we can build, but the Minister will need to approve more for the busy spring season.”
IFA horticulture chair Paul Brophy said: “The new general employment permit quota for 1,000 horticultural operatives is long overdue and critical for the sector.”
We urgently need clarity on the timeframe for the approval of these permits
“The availability of skilled workers remains the number one constraint for the sustainable expansion of the sector. The additional permits should help to alleviate the considerable immediate shortfall. However, the seasonal permit scheme needs to be in place before next spring.”
We cannot be in a situation where crops are not harvested for Christmas
“We urgently need clarity on the timeframe for the approval of these permits. As it stands, there are considerable backlogs for the renewal of work permits.
“The approval of permits must be streamlined and straightforward. We cannot be in a situation where crops are not harvested for Christmas because of staff shortages,” he said.
Disappointing for pig farm operatives and poultry sector
IFA pigs chair Roy Gallie said: “This announcement goes some way towards addressing acute staff shortages in the supply chain. Permits for butchers and general meat processing operatives will, we hope, alleviate the current processing logjam. It is, however, hugely disappointing that pig farm operatives were not included in this announcement.”
IFA poultry chair Andy Boylan said: “I am disappointed yet again that the poultry sector has been excluded. There is an increased demand for experienced poultry workers, which has not been addressed. The Department must release a quota of 100 workers for the sector urgently.”