The announcement that 100 extra work permits for the dairy industry are being made available for non-EU workers is welcome news. There is a critical labour shortage in the agricultural sector. Several dairy farmers have raised the issue with me, outlining how they cannot get access to labour for their farms. The decision by Minister Heather Humphreys will go some way towards relieving the pressure on the dairy industry.
In May 2018 a pilot scheme was introduced for the horticulture, meat processing, and diary sectors. This allowed workers from non-EU countries to access employment in these sectors. The dairy sector was given a quota of 50 permits, all of which have been used. I and others in Fine Gael have been raising this with both Michael Creed and Heather Humphreys. The decision to increase the number of permits available shows that there is a genuine shortage of dairy farm assistants.
The dairy farm assistants must be paid a minimum of €22,000 per year. There are obligations on employers to ensure access to suitable accommodation and training, including language training.,
This is only one action that can be taken to improve the supply of labour for the agri-food industry. There is also a need to increase the training of farm assistants in Ireland. We will not be able to totally depend on foreign workers to relieve the shortage of farm labour.