The UK dairy industry’s current reliance on EU labour would mean an almost catastrophic failure if it is no longer able to access overseas workers in the short term, warns a new report from the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF).

Tim Brigstocke, policy director at the RABDF, presented the Informing Policy: The importance of European Union labour to the UK dairy sector report to Defra’s Access to Labour Team. It makes the case for UK dairy farming to retain access to EU labour in the short term, with measures to improving the supply of UK labour in the longer term. 

Mr Brigstocke said the Association believed that the UK dairy sector needed permanent, skilled workers. “With our latest survey estimating 56% 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.

“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 advisers. It will also discuss these key areas at its Business and Policy conference on Wednesday 18 October, at which farming minister George Eustice will be speaking.” The Association is recommending measures to secure access to EU labour should be put in place to avoid the UK dairy industry becoming disadvantaged.