Kiwi farmers set to ‘turnover’ dairy labour dilemma on Irish farms

Kiwi farmers look set to play a “formal” role in tackling mounting labour problems in the Irish dairy sector, AgriLand has learned.

Today Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed discussed the sector’s acute labour shortage with New Zealand Minister for Agriculture, Biosecurity, Food Safety and Rural Communities, Damien O’Connor at a meeting in Agriculture House in Dublin.

Following the talks a spokesman for Minister Creed said: “Discussions were had with regard the prospect of a formal reciprocal arrangement.

“A commitment was made by the New Zealand Minister to raise the matter at home and for official dialogue to take place,” he said.

Last year a Teagasc report on the future labour requirements for Irish dairying identified the need for 6,000 people to enter dairy farming over the next nine years.

The People in Dairy Project Report highlighted the critical need for 2,000 new employment opportunities and 4,000 people to provide for regeneration of existing dairy farmers.

Speaking at the recent Irish Farmers’ Association’s (IFA) annual general meeting, Minister Creed voiced his openness to considering labour permits for non European Economic Area (EEA) workers as another possible solution.

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.