The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) has submitted evidence to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) highlighting the problem of skills shortages in the UK.
The MAC will use the responses to support the evidence-based recommendations delivered to the Home Secretary in September 2020, which did not include dairy workers on the MAC shortage occupation list.
There are fears a failure to include foreign dairy workers on the list following this latest consultation will leave the sector with a labour shortage from next year when a new points-based immigration system is implemented.
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.
RABDF managing director Matt Knight said: “Dairy workers are not classed as highly skilled and they are currently not listed on the MAC shortage occupation list.
“This failure to recognise dairy workers will leave the UK dairy industry with a severe labour shortage with some of the largest dairy producers in the UK relying on skilled foreign labour.”
He added: “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, he added.”
A survey by RABDF in 2016 found over half of the respondents employed staff from outside of the UK in the last five years – a 24 per cent increase on 2014. Almost two-thirds said this was due to insufficient UK staff being available.
In the same survey more than 50 per cent of migrant workers on dairy farms were classed as highly skilled or mainly highly skilled- something the UK government fails to recognise.