January 29, 2018


Dependency on foreign workers in UK dairy farms sparks Brexit fears


A new survey has uncovered that more than one in 10 employees working at Scotland's dairy farms are not UK nationals, The Press and Journal reported.

Comissioned by dairy consultancy company Kite Consulting and conducted by Ian Potter Marketing Services, the survey discovered that, out of 108 Scottish dairy farms, 13% of staff there were foreigners. 

For the entire UK, 1,108 farms were surveyed, with 11.2% of staff identified as non-UK citizens and more than half of these workers operating in the skilled positions of herdsmen and herd managers.

These latest findings hint at the extent of consequences which entail Brexit: as more than a third of the UK's milk is produced on farms which use foreign labour, many of these workers could flock to European countries following the UK's divorce from the EU. Kite Consulting cautioned about a "cliff-edge" shortage of manpower in the event the UK could no longer access foreign nationals from outside its region.

"Labour issues have shot to the top of the list of challenges for many dairy farms after the Brexit referendum," said Kite's managing partner, John Allen, as he revealed that "over a quarter" of local farmers claimed challenges in employing workers.

"It is already one of the key limiting factors to growth, and to the effective operation of dairy farms. The ready and steady supply of skilled, dedicated foreign workers is critical to the success of the sector and to its long-term prosperity."

The survey underscores the crucial cooperation between the government and industry to address a future labour shortage, Matt Knight, managing director of the Royal Association of Dairy Farmers (RABDF), commented.

"Government needs to first of all recognise the very specific needs of the UK dairy farming sector for permanent year-round semi-skilled and skilled labour," Knight added.

"We as a dairy industry also need 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."

According to Knight, a RABDF survey found that only 4% of the public would seek employment at UK dairy farms.

- The Press and Journal