‘Shortage of labour supply at farm level restricting the agriculture sector’

The shortage of labour supply at farm level will restrict the agriculture sector in the future, according to the IFA’s President Joe Healy.

The IFA has called for employment permits to be made available to farm workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) to meet labour and skills shortages on Irish farms.

shortage of skilled and general labour supply has emerged in the agriculture sector in the last number of years, the IFA recently outlined in a submission to a Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation review.

In order to meet demand, the IFA has proposed that employment permits should be extended to farm workers from non-EEA countries.

The shortage of labour supply at farm level, both skilled and manual, will restrict the ability of the agriculture sector to achieve its growth targets over the next decade, Healy said.

“Farmers compete on international markets, and considering the potential implications of Brexit for Irish agriculture, any restriction on competitiveness that can be alleviated should be alleviated,” he added.

Horticulture and dairy sectors

The horticulture sector – mushroom and strawberry growers in particular – is struggling to find suitable labour from within the EEA countries, the IFA’s Horticulture Chairman, Gerry Reilly, said.

This labour shortage is due to improved employment levels, job opportunities and improved economies in Ireland and other EEA countries, Reilly added.

Meanwhile, particular issues arise in meeting skilled labour demand on dairy farms following the removal of quotas, the IFA’s Dairy Chairman, Sean O’Leary, said.

“A number of farmers who have contacted the IFA about this issue have identified skilled individuals in countries outside the EEA, which have an already-established intensive dairy industry, but due to our current work permit system they are unable to employ these people,” he added.

In addition, he said the shortage of skilled workers in the dairy sector has resulted in an increase in working hours for many farmers. This is also a concern from a health and safety and quality of life perspective, O’Leary said.