Migrant workers make up 20% of Northern Ireland paid farming workers

Migrants work in the fruit, mushroom and flower sectors in NI
Migrants work in the fruit, mushroom and flower sectors in NI

Migrants make up 20% of the workforce of Northern Ireland farms, a new report has found.

The Department of Agriculture’s report, ‘Migrant Labour in NI Agriculture’ found that on November 1 2017, an estimated 1,404 non-seasonal and seasonal workers from outside the UK and Republic of Ireland were employed in agriculture in Northern Ireland.

Using June Agricultural Census employment figures, the 1,404 migrant workers equate to 20% of the paid agricultural workforce, the report said.

“Almost all the responses from farm businesses with migrant labour stated that migrant labour was important to their business,” the report said.

“Horticultural farms were the most likely farm type to employ migrant labour with approximately 70% of the estimated migrant labour used on these farms.

“Thirty-two per cent of non-seasonal migrant workers present on November 1 2017 were from Bulgaria with 28% from Lithuania and 16% from Poland.”

The vast majority of NI’s 49,000 farm workers were self-employed owners, business partners and spouses.

Of the about 7,000 paid employees just over 1,400 were migrant workers, almost all from the EU.

Of those remaining, 13% had only non-seasonal migrant labour, 15% had only seasonal migrant labour, and 7% had both non-seasonal and seasonal migrant labour.

Migrant workers were concentrated in mushroom, fruit and indoor flower growing.

A total of 609 businesses surveyed found that 65% had no migrant labour.