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EU labour critical to stop dairy 'falling off a cliff edge'

But over the long term, the sector needs to work out how to attract more UK workers


Alex   Black

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Alex   Black
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EU labour critical to stop dairy 'falling off a cliff edge' #teamdairy

EU labour is critical to stopping dairy farming from ‘falling off a cliff edge’ post-Brexit, according to a new report which the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) delivered to Defra today (October 3).

 

But the report also urges the sector to tackle its poor image and address the problems of unsocial hours and rural isolation to make jobs more attractive to UK workers.


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  • Only 4% of UK adults willing to consider roles working outside, with animals, with machinery, in small workforces, in rural locations with flexible hours
  • Between 63% and 85% lose interest when they find out the job is in dairy farming
  • 51% of those unlikely to consider a role in dairy farming are skilled or well-qualified

Source: YouGov June 2017 survey of 2,000 UK adults

Presenting the report, policy director of RABDF Tim Brigstocke said it had concluded that UK dairy farming sector labour requirements were specifically about permanent, skilled roles.

 

Current reliance on EU labour would mean an almost catastrophic failure within the sector should short termaccess to overseas workers not be maintained.

 

“However, with our latest survey estimating 56 per cent of dairy farmers currently employ workers from the EU, it is not resilient either for us to continue to rely so heavily on overseas labour in the long term,” he said.

 

Cliff edge

 

“So we want to look at how we can keep dairy farming from falling off a cliff edge while addressing the issues that turn off UK workers from seeking a career in the sector. Some of this will involve farmers and those in the supply chain taking a long hard look at why the reputation of dairy farming is as it is.

 

“RABDF is exploring specific activities it can undertake to promote dairy farming in a positive light and raise its profile to inner city schools and their subsequent careers advisors.”

The report called on Government to:

  • Recognise the very specific needs of the UK dairy farming sector for permanent year-round semi-skilled and skilled labour
  • Recognise the current inability and unwillingness of the current UK workforce
  • Consider this need within Brexit negotiations and migration targets

It called on the industry to:

  • Take collective and cohesive action to improve the image of dairy farming and the attractiveness of the sector as a career option to the domestic workforce
  • Look into how unpopular working conditions can be improved
  • Adopt a positive attitude and change the dialogue from problems to opportunities
  • Focus specifically on increasing the awareness of career opportunities in dairy farming in schools, and challenge misperceptions
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