Labour availability now a critical issue for agri-food

Food Drink Ireland (FDI), the Ibec group that represents the food and drink sector, today published its quarterly Business Monitor (see attached pdf), highlighting how the sector needs to attract and retain skilled workers and address labour shortages.

Paul Kelly, FDI Director said: “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.

“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 €21m 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”.

Other key trends from the FDI business monitor include:

Food Prices: Food prices continue to fall, decreasing by 2.2% in the year to October.

Retail Sales and Consumer Sentiment: Food retail sales and values experiencing almost like for like growth.

Employment: Employment levels continue to increase and increased by 3% in Q3 2018 compared with the same period in 2017.

Sterling Exchange Rate: Sterling has relatively stable in recent months albeit weak.

Energy Prices: Electricity prices increased by 7.1% in the year to July.

Food Commodity Indices: Prices of world food commodities decreased by 7.4% in October 2018 compared with the same period in 2017.

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