Minister of State Damien English must act now to prevent staff crises on dairy farms next spring, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has said.

A survey by the IFA, FRS Network and Farm Solutions estimates that at least 200-300 full-time workers are needed on dairy farms next spring.

IFA Dairy Committee chairman Stephen Arthur said unless work permits are cleared, there’s the potential of a critical staff shortage on many dairy farms next year.

Compared to this time last year, the IFA estimates that there has been a 65% drop in the number of applicants for dairy farm vacancies.

Staff shortage

The IFA is meeting with Minister Damien English this week, on Wednesday (October 13), to discuss the urgent need for work permits.

“There’s an increasing demand for a skilled workforce to work on our dairy farms which is not being satisfied within the EU, and we need access to workers from outside the EU,” Arthur said.

“The shortage of labour in the dairy sector is not unique. The horticulture, pig and poultry sectors have also been seriously impacted, with an insufficient supply of workers.

“A successful pilot scheme of dairy permits was issued in 2018, but this has expired.

“Business minister Damien English has to launch this pilot scheme again to satisfy demand.

“Given that the permit process can take in excess of three months, 500 permits need to be introduced immediately to ensure we have sufficient labour on our farms for this coming spring.”

According to the IFA, recruitment firms report a “strong appetite among workers from outside the EU to come to work on farms in Ireland”.

“To date, 15% of applications received by these firms come from outside the EU. This is in stark contrast to the 1% of applicants from other EU member states.

“However, workers from outside the EU are greatly restricted due to existing work permit regulations.”