Video: Contractors constantly ‘struggling to find and hold on to drivers’

Agricultural contractors are finding it increasingly difficult to find and hold on to skilled drivers for their contracting businesses.

On the most recent episode of FarmLand, the team met Peter Farrelly – agricultural contractor and general secretary of Farm Contractors Ireland (FCI) – to hear his take on the issue and what he feels is needed to rectify it.

Speaking to AgriLand, he said: “It is difficult at the minute to find drivers because no one wants to work the long hours and I suppose a lot of it is geared towards time out – some lads want to be at home at different times.

“So, it is hard to get drivers and good drivers that have the experience.”

Going further, he said: “This year has probably been one of the most difficult years because a lot of young people have gone abroad and I suppose Dublin is taking a lot of the workers from here.

“What is paid for labour in Dublin, is very different to what you can pay at a contracting business – because you would want to be getting a good bit more in order to up the wages for your workers.”

Continuing on what needs to be done, he said: “I think the silage system needs a whole overhaul. This year alone you would want to be getting €150-160/ac with the crops that are out there to make it justifiable.

Touching on how he sources drivers for his business, he said: “I try to get farmers’ sons that would have a little bit of an idea about what is going on.

“We are also looking at bringing in some lads from abroad because I think it is the only way we are going to be able to sustain the silage operation.”

He believes that the “price that is there for the agricultural contracting work at the minute is not feasible for contractors to sustain and keep their equipment in good order”.

Rectifying the issue

Peter feels that young people need to be more attracted to the sector in order for contractors to be able to find and keep skilled drivers. He feels that if an apprenticeship was available, young people would be more enticed to enter the sector.

“There are over 10,000 jobs in the agricultural contracting business. I think it is a big area of employment, particularly in rural Ireland.

“I think the Government needs to look more at doing something for contractors. We need an apprenticeship to be available because parents want their kids to go off and get an apprenticeship somewhere – then come back to contracting if they want.

“We also need an apprenticeship system so that young people can learn how to operate and look after the harvesters and other machines.

“So, we are calling on the Government to put an apprenticeship in place,” concluded Peter.