There has been a surge in demand from dairy farmers for work permits allowing for workers to come to Ireland from outside Europe.
In May 2018, 50 permits for dairy farm assistants from countries outside the European Economic Area (the EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) were made available by the Department of Business.
By the end of 2018 just 11 of these permits had been issued, though number have risen sharply since the start of the year.
In response to a parliamentary question from Fine Gael’s John Deasy on 18 April, Minister for Business Heather Humphreys confirmed 49 of the permits have now been issued.
Farmers are required to pay permit workers a minimum of €22,000 a year based on a 39-hour week.
Employment permits were also introduced on a pilot basis for meat factory operatives and horticulture workers.
There has been major demand for permits from processors. Having been initially granted 250 permits, factories were given several increases, with 1,500 now available. A total of 1,339 permits have been issued so far.
Uptake has been much slower for horticulture permits. Just 91 of the 500 available permits have been issued.
In total, 1,479 of the 2,050 permits have been issued.
Deasy queried whether the unused permits could be allocated to pig farmers. Minister Humphreys said the permits were not transferable and the role of pig farmer is currently on the ineligible occupations list.
The Minister elaborated, saying: “A submission was made to the most recent review of the occupations lists on behalf of the pig farmer occupation. However, available research does not indicate a shortage of labour in the sector.
"It is proposed that the sector provide more information, in particular detailed evidence of efforts to recruit from within the EEA for consideration during the next review.”
Just 11 permits granted for non-European dairy workers
Factories to double non-EU workers