Commencement Matters

Work Permits Eligibility

I welcome the Minister to the House. This Commencement matter relates to the need for a review of the criteria for issuing permits to farm workers from outside the European Union as a matter of urgency due to the shortage of labour supply. The Minister of State will be aware as a Minister of State who represents rural and urban communities and people that there is a need and a shortage. What is really critical is that farmers all over the country are voicing major concerns about the shortage of workers. The State's largest farm-owned dairy co-operative, Dairygold, has just revealed that milk suppliers have signalled that labour supply is a major obstacle for their future plans. It is really important. Teagasc and Páidí Kelly, a research officer, have recently raised the issue of the demand, particularly in the dairy sector, as a result of the scrapping of milk quotas and the extra work associated with that in terms of dairy herds.

There is a huge shortage of seasonal workers in soft fruit production, horticultural production and organic production, including vegetables and soft foods. We are hearing reports about it. There was a piece in today's Irish Farmers' Journal about the shortage of people in the pig and poultry sector. There is a vast array of agricultural and horticultural industries in this country that could be producing more products and creating more business and revenue for growers, suppliers and retailers. There is genuinely a shortage. We also have a situation where people who wish to work are waiting to be processed. They are seasonal workers, short-term workers and long-term workers. There are people with skills who are willing and able. We are members of the European Union and we are finding it difficult to source people within the Union now. There are challenges in how we address the issue of workers coming into this country to do meaningful work to create wealth and sustain communities. There is a real need to look at how we can relax the regulations to deal with the crisis.