In 2018, at my request, following significant and ongoing engagement with the agri-food sector and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, a review of the emerging labour shortages being experienced in that sector was undertaken resulting in the introduction of a pilot scheme which provided for operatives for the horticulture, dairy farming and meat processing industries. A quota of 250 employment permits was introduced initially for meat processing operatives. This quota has been increased twice with provision made for a further 500 and 750 bringing the total to 1,500 permits. As part of the ongoing review of the occupation lists, my Department is currently considering a further business case submitted by meat industry employer representatives for an additional quota for meat processing operatives and is engaging with officials in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in this regard. I expect recommendations arising from the ongoing review to be presented for my consideration in the coming weeks.
On 9th September 2019, my officials contacted the named company to inform them that the quota of 1,500 permits for Meat Processing Operatives had been exhausted. My officials explained that the company could withdraw some or all of its six employment permit applications, and apply for a 90% refund of the fees, or the relevant applications could remain in their current position in the processing queue pending the completion of the consideration of the request for a further extension to the quota. My officials inform me that the named company have, to date, sought a refund for one application.