Labour shortages are continuing to impact the agri-food sector, says ifac

Ifac, Ireland’s farming, food and agribusiness specialist professional services firm, is reminding Tipperary employers of the criteria for employment permits.


As many as two in every three business owners in the agri-food sector find it difficult to hire employees according to ifac’s 2022 Food & Agribusiness Report. Lack of available skills, low interest in roles, high salary expectations and intense competition for candidates were the main barriers highlighted by employers when asked about their hiring difficulties.

While there are steps employers can take to improve their ability to recruit and retain staff – such as offering good wages, flexible working conditions or additional benefits like accommodation – unfortunately, these measures may not be enough to attract candidates in the local market.

Labour shortages are continuing to impact the agri-food sector, says ifac

Clarissa O’Nuallain, HR Services Manager at ifac.

Clarissa O’Nuallain, HR Services Manager at ifac said:


“An increasing number of employers in the Agri-Food Sector are utilising employment permits to ease staffing shortages.”


Sectoral shortages


While the shortage of candidates is affecting businesses across the economy, it is particularly acute in some sectors.


Employers in the meat industry, along with dairy, horticulture and pig farmers, for example, are already looking beyond the EU to find suitable candidates for vacant roles.

Labour shortages are continuing to impact the agri-food sector, says ifac

David Leydon, Head of Food and Agribusiness at ifac.

David Leydon, Head of Food and Agribusiness at ifac said:


“As we all know, this is a tough time for Irish food and agribusiness SMEs and they are all facing significant challenges. Recruiting difficulties coupled with rising salary costs are now significant concerns for business owners; according to our recent report, 67% of business owners have experienced difficulty when recruiting. Also, for the fifth consecutive year, the availability of skills is the main reason why businesses are struggling to hire. This is likely leading to this increase in businesses seeking a solution through employment permits, which when managed correctly can benefit both employers and employees and ultimately the overall sector and consumers.


“Another beneficial and longer-term focus is employer branding; this ultimately means developing the right culture in your business. It will not happen by osmosis and must be very intentionally created. When agribusinesses are looking for talent this culture piece will be vital over the long-term and will help great businesses to stand out.”


Employment Permits


If you intend to hire employees from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), UK or Switzerland, it is important to be aware that they require an employment permit to work in Ireland.


An employment permit must be granted before the prospective employee can commence employment.


From an employer’s perspective, the key criteria are:



The application fee depends on the type of permit sought. For a General Employment Permit, the fee is €500 for a six-month permit or €1,000 for up to 24 months. For a Critical Skills Employment Permit, the fee is €1,000 for up to 24 months.


The Labour Market Needs Test takes 28 days. Furthermore, the application must be received by the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment (DETE) at least 12 weeks before the proposed employment start date. This means that if you were to apply for an employment permit now, you may be waiting up to 16 weeks before you have a decision.


Clarissa continued:


“Applying for a permit can be a tricky process as permits can be refused for several reasons. Ifac acts as an agent and can manage the employment permit process on the employer’s behalf; ifac is a DETE Trusted Partner reducing the time and paperwork for clients applying for the scheme.”


Ifac has been at the heart of agriculture and food since 1975, providing a quality service and expert advice to its farming, food, and agri-business clients across the country. A top ten accountancy firm, ifac has over 30 locations nationwide and 500 people serving 22,000 clients. For further information and/or advice, contact your local ifac office.

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