Don’t miss this month’s new look Dairy Farmer. Take a look at the digital edition today.
As Brexit bulldog Davis finally sits down with EU head honcho Michel Barnier, no-one has the foggiest idea what rabbits, if any, they will pull from the hat, and with the total disarray back home, it is all adding up to nothing short of a shambles.
Fears are growing that UK agriculture will be left to pick up the pieces, and with ‘austerity’ finding itself back in the political lexicon, Government support may be hard to find.
Against that background, milk producers have been getting mixed signals from processors in the first six months of the year as to whether their milk was wanted at all, and suddenly it seems there is a bit of a tight market and more milk would be very welcome.
So tight a market, in fact, that Arla’s boss has warned us butter prices will have to rise and there could be a shortage by Christmas, giving rise to the question as to why they had not signalled this to producers earlier.
But with prices improving at last, Kite Consulting is warning producers to pay off their debt and rebalance their books before contemplating any major capital item.
This brings us on to the balance between automation and labour, and less investment in sophisticated machinery may mean the continued reliance on labour as we do now.
The trouble is much of this labour comes from overseas and continued access could be put in jeopardy with current Brexit deals.
But worse than that, with the devalued sterling, working here for the season no longer provides the golden egg to take back home. For example, it means each £10,000 of any salary paid in sterling is now equivalent to 48,000 Polish zloty, whereas last year it equated to more than Z55,000, meaning those workers are Z7000 short on every £10,000 they earn.
Even more worrying is the fact domestic workers do not want the jobs, as the recent RABDF survey reveals, so it is no good looking to UK workers to jump into that dank parlour at some godforsaken hour in the morning to start cupping up 200 cows, as it just will not happen.
We have been promised Brexit will bring benefits for dairy farming. At the moment, though, it looks as if any opportunities arising will be unrealisable because we will simply not have the people to do the work!