Dublin fruit and vegetable producer Keelings has stated it believes it can save most of its fruit crop this year without the employment of additional workers from outside the nation. There was a significant controversy last month when the company flew in almost 200 agricultural workers from Bulgaria on a chartered flight from Sofia.
In a new statement on its website, Keelings said it acknowledged the understandable concerns raised by the arrival of the workers to pick fruit on the north Dublin farm. It said that in late March, in order to ascertain whether it could save the harvest with locally-recruited employees, it advertised in Ireland, but that as of April 16th it had attracted only 27 domestic applications, which fell significantly short of its labour needs.
“Given the level of publicity over the last number of weeks we have had additional applications and other offers of help,” it said. “We are focused on processing current applicants and believe that we will have enough people available to us to save most of our fruit harvest. We do not plan to recruit further horticultural workers from outside Ireland in the coming months.”
Keelings is an Irish-owned family business that has been growing and packing fruit and vegetables for the Irish market since the 1920s. It currently employs more than 1,700 people in growing, harvesting, importing, packaging and other roles.
“Up until the late 1990s, we recruited most of our seasonal workers locally, but over the last 20 years there has been less interest from Irish people in this work. Most of our seasonal work has been done by experienced horticultural workers from other EU countries, often from Poland, Latvia, and now from Bulgaria.”
The 189 workers who were flown in from Sofia on April 13th had been health screened before departure and were taken straight to their housing upon arrival, on private buses, where they began 14 days of restricted movement, the company said.
The company said it complies fully with all Irish and EU employment law, including the minimum wage law. The company said it was proud of its relationship with its seasonal employees. Typically, 70 per cent of them asked to return from one year to the next and some had been coming to work for Keelings for more than 10 years, it said.