A strategic review on labour attraction and retention in the meat processing sector is to commence shortly, Meat Industry Ireland (MII) has confirmed.

Permits were “first made available to the sector in 2018 on a pilot basis” MII said, with the proviso that such a review would be carried out.

Demand for permits soared in recent years. However, there were 3,000 fewer permits issued for agricultural workers in 2023 compared to 2022, Irish Farmers Journal analysis of Department of Enterprise data shows.

In 2022, there were 4,311 work permits issued to companies in the agricultural sector compared to just 1,385 issued in 2023.

Meat factories generally account for the largest number of the permits issued within the agricultural sector.

Dawn Meats had the highest number in 2022, with 672 work permits issued. However, this number was a lot lower in 2023 at just 82.


ABP had just 42 workers come in from abroad last year compared to 418 in the previous year, while Kepak had 292 in 2022 compared to 25 last year.

Rosderra Irish Meats similarly had a significantly higher number of permits in 2022 with 376 compared to just 97 in 2023.

Liffey Meats in Cavan had the next highest number of work permits issued in 2022 with 229 compared to 77 last year.

Kildare Chilling and Irish Country Meats were granted over 100 permits in 2022, compared to just 20 and six, respectively, last year.

Permit renewal

According to the Department of Enterprise, work permits last two years and can then be renewed for up to a further three years. After five years, the applicant may apply to the Immigration Service Delivery (ISD) for long-term residency.

When asked why such a drop occurred in 2023, the Department of Enterprise said that occupations for certain roles in the agri-food sector had access to permits over the past number of years under quota restrictions.

“Where a quota restriction is applied the number of permits granted per year will be impacted by this quota,” a spokesperson told the Irish Farmers Journal.

Referencing the drop in permits last year, a Kepak spokesperson said that in 2023 a small quota of unutilised permits were returned to the Department and re-released.