No easy fix to solve the dairy industry’s labour shortage – Creed

The Irish dairy industry needs to look at innovative ways to address labour shortages, according to the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed.

This comes as the sector is set to face an unprecedented labour shortage in the coming years. Teagasc estimates, from the ‘The People in Dairy Project’ report, suggest that dairy farmers will need to hire 6,000 new employees over the next decade.

“We have got the report recently and it’s certainly something my department have identified as a critical issue.”

Speaking to AgriLand at yesterday’s Moorepark ’17 event, the minister said: “There are no easy fixes for this [labour shortage].

People are talking about work permits for people outside of the European Union. But there’s 20 million people unemployed within the EU, so I don’t think that’s going to be a realistic thing.

Minister Creed added: “There’s a cohort of people who are working flat out in the dairy side; particularly for three-to-four months of the year.”

And this, he said, needs to be addressed.

He also touched on the prospect of bringing students back from overseas to work on Irish dairy farms.

“A lot of Irish students go to New Zealand and Australia for gap years in farming. Is there something we can do to attract people back?” the minister questioned.

We need to think outside the box on this; it’s not easy.

Tackling farm fatalities

2017 has been a difficult year for fatalities on Irish farms. When asked what can be done to reduce this worrying trend, the minister said: “If I knew the answer to that I would be a happy man.

“We collectively need to take ownership of the issue. It’s not a state problem; it’s not a farm organisation problem; it’s not a HSA problem; it’s every individual farmer’s problem.

I heard a staggering statistic that was given to me by FBD recently. In the course of your life, there’s a one-in-72 chance of being involved in a fatal farm accident.

“It’s a startling statistic because the mentality that prevails, unfortunately, is one of ‘it won’t happen to me’.

“Unfortunately it does,” he said.