Speaking at the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) annual general meeting in the Irish Farm Centre last night, the minister openly responded to repeated concerns over the acute labour shortage in the dairy sector.
“I took a call from Heather Humphreys [Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation] literally as I was getting into the car on this issue.
There is a willingness within the department to work through the issues around work permits and hopefully an announcement on work permits will be made available in the first half of 2018.
The minister noted that senior officials in his department have been specifically tasked with addressing the labour crisis in the dairy sector, adding that he expects a report on the issue by the end of the month.
He also revealed that he will explore other potential solutions with New Zealand’s Minister for Agriculture when he visits Dublin next week.
“I’m meeting with the New Zealand Minister for Agriculture in the department next week; we’re trying to see if there is an opportunity there for twinning with agri colleges in New Zealand and agri colleges here.
“We are working on a number of different strands on this,” he said.
Yesterday, IFA president Joe Healy reiterated that the dairy and horticulture sectors are being held up in the running of their businesses because of the lack of labour.
I am calling on the government to ensure farmers and growers can obtain labour permits for farm workers from outside the EU/EEA.
“When the quotas went people said land was the restraint; but now it is very much the labour. What we want is fairly skilled labour for certain areas; but, if they are willing to work, our sectors don’t mind training them.
“It is very important in terms of farm safety. We are heading into the busiest time now on all dairy farms – long days and a lot of work – sometimes it is fatigue and lack of concentration that causes accidents that could otherwise be avoided,” he said.