UK dairy farmers warn of rising prices amid chronic staff shortages | Agriculture

Dairy farmers are warning that a chronic labor shortage is hitting dairy production and further fueling food price inflation, and are calling for urgent action to prevent the situation from getting worse.

Eight in 10 farm owners looking for workers said they received very few or no applications from people with the required experience or qualifications, in response to a survey by Arla Foods, the UK’s largest dairy co-operative United.

Farmers blame Brexit and Covid for their recruitment problems, saying the combination of the end of the free movement of EU workers and the consequences of the pandemic, as well as other economic factors, make it more difficult to find appropriate staff.

Food producers have been warning for some time that huge labor shortages in agriculture have led to the rotting of unharvested crops in the fields and the slaughter of healthy pigs on farms due to a lack of workers in meat processing plants, leading to disruption of the food supply chain.

In April, MPs on the Parliament’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee reported that the sector had half a million vacancies last August, representing an eighth of all vacancies.

Almost two-thirds (61%) of dairy farmers said it was harder to recruit workers than in 2019, in a survey of around a quarter of co-op members. In total, Arla’s 2,100 farmer owners represent approximately 30% of all dairy farmers.

Milk production in the UK has already been hit by labor shortages, according to the survey, and milk volumes are currently around 3% lower than last year.

A small but significant number of farmers reported responding to staff shortages by reducing production by reducing the number of milkings (4.3%), while some reduced their herd size (6%), and a more breeders are weighing taking these steps.

Nearly 12% of dairy farmers plan to quit farming altogether next year if nothing changes.

Industry calls on government to add specialist roles such as herd manager in the UK list of shortage occupations – which is an official register of skilled occupations where there are not enough UK resident workers to fill vacancies – in order to increase the size of the pool of workers.

“It is vitally important to address the labor shortage and the implications this could have for food safety,” said Arla UK Managing Director Ash Amirahmadi.

“If we don’t act now, the current shortages of people will only get worse, jeopardizing production on farms, undermining our food security and further fueling higher prices for consumers.

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Amirahmadi calls on government and industry to work together to change attitudes and make farming more attractive to a new group of people.

He has written to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs asking for an acceleration of the labor market review promised in the food strategy white paper.

About Keneth T. Graves

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