10 August 2018
By Mary Bermingham
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed T.D., has today welcomed the announcement by the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys T.D. of the granting of a further allocation of employment permits for the meat processing sector “this is a welcome response to the clear demand for labour that exists in this important part of the agri-food industry and will go some way towards addressing the significant shortfall that exists for general operatives in meat processing plants” the Minister said.
The meat processing sector has experienced value-added and export-orientated growth in recent years, with the notable addition of the Chinese market recently as a significant new export destination for sales of Irish meat. This comes at a time when unemployment in the wider economy has decreased significantly (now below 6%) and in parallel, some EU Member States, which have traditionally been a strong source of labour supply for these sectors, have themselves experienced employment growth thus resulting in reduced labour migration. This combination of factors has led to a deficit of labour supply.
Minister Creed said “the granting of a further allocation of 500 permits, on top of the previous 250 announced in May as part of the pilot quota of permits for the meat processing, horticultural and dairy sectors is a measured response by Government towards helping to fill the labour gap. These 750 permits will assist in meeting the labour requirement that exists and play an important role in ensuring that Irish meat processors can compete internationally and continue to meet the stringent demands of their domestic and international customers”.
The Minister went on “When the pilot scheme was announced in May, I emphasised that these permits are only one piece of the jigsaw with regard to labour supply and that the agri-food sector, in line with the Food Wise strategy, must put significant effort into attracting, retaining and developing the best people to work in the sector. I also highlighted that the sector must also continue and intensify its efforts to source labour from both the domestic and EU labour markets. My Department has worked with the industry and facilitated increased engagement in these efforts and I welcome the fact that they have been able to prove their compliance with the conditions set down previously by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation”.
In concluding, Minister Creed thanked his colleague Minister Humphreys, saying “the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation and her officials have put significant effort into finding solutions to the ongoing labour supply issues with officials from my Department. I am confident that this cross-government approach will assist the meat industry in addressing one of its most significant challenges and help position it to deliver on our value-added, export oriented growth ambitions.”