In order to prevent the situation from getting worse, dairy farmers are warning that a persistent labor shortage is affecting milk production and contributing to the inflation of food prices.
According to a survey conducted by Arla Foods, the largest dairy cooperative in the UK, eight out of ten farm owners who were looking for employees said they had received very few or no applications from people who had the necessary experience or qualifications.
Farmers claim that finding qualified employees is becoming more difficult as a result of the end of free movement for EU workers, the pandemic’s aftermath, and other economic factors. They are blaming Brexit and Covid for their recruitment issues.
The supply chain for food has been disrupted as a result of the severe labor shortages in agriculture, which have caused unharvested crops to be left to rot in fields and the slaughter of healthy pigs on farms due to a lack of workers at meat processing plants.
The environment, food, and rural affairs committee of the parliament’s members reported in April that the sector had 500,000 open positions in August of last year, or one eighth of all positions.
In a survey of about a quarter of the co-members, operative’s dairy farmers reported that it was harder to find workers than in 2019 by almost two-thirds (61 percent). About 30% of all dairy farmers are among the 2,100 farmer owners of Arla.
According to the survey, the labor shortage in the UK has already had an impact on milk production, and milk volumes are currently about 3% lower than they were a year ago.
A small but significant percentage of farmers (4.3%) reported that they had reduced output in response to staff shortages by reducing the number of milkings, while some had also decreased the size of their herd (6%) and more farmers are considering taking these actions.
If nothing changes, nearly 12% of dairy farmers are thinking about giving up farming entirely.
In order to expand the pool of workers, the industry is urging the government to include specialized positions such as herd manager on the UK’s shortage occupation list, which is an official list of skilled occupations where there aren’t enough UK residents to fill openings.
Ash Amirahmadi, managing director of Arla UK, emphasized the critical importance of addressing the labor shortage and its potential effects on food security.
If we don’t take action right away, the current labor shortages will only worsen, endangering farm production, threatening our food security, and driving up consumer prices even more.
Amirahmadi is urging business and government to collaborate in order to change perceptions and make farming more appealing to a wider audience.
In a letter to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, he has urged an expedited review of the labor market, which was promised in the white paper on the food strategy.