Availability of labour has become a critical issue for the agri-food sector, according to Food Drink Ireland (FDI) in its latest Business Monitor.
The Ibec group has highlighted how the sector needs to attract and retain skilled workers to address widening labour shortages.
“Labour availability is now a critical issue within agri-food. Many food processors are facing a serious challenge in securing the necessary labour resources at general operative level,” said FDI Director Paul Kelly.
“Despite the ongoing significant efforts to recruit from the Irish and European labour force, the critical nature of the current situation is deepening as the economy approaches full employment again.
“The situation has now deteriorated to levels where it is having a real impact at individual factory level and negatively impacting the ability of companies to plan for expansion and indeed to meet day-to-day operational demands to service existing customers.
“Government must urgently extend the employment permit schemes across the food processing sector so that labour shortages do not impact on existing business and growth prospects.
“There is a need to ensure the skills base of existing employees reflects not just the current business demands but the challenges of future growth in existing and new markets.
“Food and drink companies spent €21 million on formal training in 2016, the highest amount of any manufacturing sector.
“A welcome development has been increased funding supports for enterprise-led training initiatives including Skillnets and industrial apprenticeships.
“There now needs to be a focus on apprenticeships and upskilling to address the lack of technical operators for a fast-growing indigenous industry that is spread across the country.”