Irish fruit and vegetable growers have warned of a major labour crisis on their farms if an employment permit scheme that allows hiring workers from outside Europe is not expanded.
The pilot horticulture work permit scheme opened in May 2018 to allow people from non-European Economic Area (EEA) countries to work here if employers can show they cannot get workers in Ireland or EEA countries.
However, the 500 permits provided for the horticulture sector were all allocated before the end of 2019, according to the Department of Business, and the sector still does not have enough workers. Many of the permits were taken by the mushroom industry, while carrot, tomato and Brussels sprouts growers also employed workers under the scheme.
Mushroom picking is a labour-intensive business and this work has attracted migrants from countries such as Poland and Lithuania in the past. However, as unemployment levels fall, these countries are now facing their own labour shortages.
Despite placing advertisements and using social media locally, nationally and in European countries such as Latvia and Poland, many growers could not get staff to harvest their mushrooms.