Dairying ‘must be promoted to tackle labour shortage’

There should be an increased effort to promote dairy farming as an attractive career option in order to plug the shortage in skilled labour, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

Speaking at the Teagasc Moorepark 2017 Open Day in Fermoy today, July 4, the IFA’s Sean O’Leary highlighted that the skills shortage in dairying was particularly pronounced last spring.

The IFA National Dairy Committee Chairman said: “Today’s event is all about positively supporting the sector with the outcomes of world-class research.

However, a shortage of skilled labour has proven a major issue on farms and we need to identify and train more suitable candidates.

“Dairy farming can offer long-term attractive career options, and must be promoted as such among farmers in other sectors, agricultural students, and also among those outside of agriculture.”

O’Leary also pointed to other obstacles currently facing the dairy sector, including milk price volatility and the potential consequences of Brexit when the UK officially exits the EU.

To combat the effects of price and income volatility, he called for industry stakeholders to develop more hedging options, like futures, which would provide alternatives to fixed milk price contracts.

He added: “Our government must build on the taxation changes already made in the last two years, and allow farmers to engage in precautionary, tax-efficient savings in good years.

“Our financial institutions must also provide more competitively-priced financial packages, for both short and long-term needs, which permit flexible repayments reflecting price and revenue levels.”

On Brexit, O’Leary emphasised the importance for existing trade flows to be as “unimpeded as possible”, as well as for the industry to develop new markets to reduce the reliance on the British market.

However, this comes after UK Minister for Farming, George Eustice, suggested trade barriers could be a useful way for UK farmers to overcome the challenges posed by European competition, including from Ireland.