The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) has warned a number of the UK’s largest dairy farms are set to go bust over the coming years after the Migration Advisory Committee rejected its calls to add dairy workers to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL).
The SOL lists occupations where employers face a shortage of suitable labour and where it is sensible to fill those shortages with migrant workers.
A survey carried out in 2016 by the RABDF found over half of respondents employed staff from outside the UK in the previous five years – a 24 per cent increase on 2014.
Almost two-thirds said this was due to insufficient UK staff being available.
RABDF managing director Matt Knight said: “The points-based immigration system will give priority to those with the ‘highest skills and greatest talents’, with dairy workers not falling into these categories.
“There are real concerns that post-2021 some of our largest, most technically advanced dairy farms could be lost due to their reliance on foreign labour.
“Should this happen, the repercussions would be felt right across the industry, with associated businesses such as feed companies and veterinary practices also affected, let alone the impact on milk supply.”
The MAC did, however, recommend that butchers, butcher’s assistants, butchery managers, meat cutters and slaughtermen be added to the SOL.
The Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) welcomed the move.
In a statement, the group said: “We believe the MAC has recognised the UK is short of the necessary skills from slaughtermen to meat cutters to butchers and has made a good recommendation to the Home Office.
“As global markets open to British meat with its high welfare standards and clear provenance, the demand for more skilled staff will increase.”
The MAC also recommended other key food chain roles such as food technologists and maintenance engineers be added to the SOL, but the Food and Drink Federation said the Government must remove or reduce the Immigration Skills Charge for shortage roles, as well as cutting visa fees and salary thresholds.
The Home Secretary will now consider the MAC’s recommendations.