The largest dairy cooperative in the United Kingdom has warned that if the government does not take immediate action to address labour shortages in farming, milk and other dairy prices might rise even further.
Arla has warned that a catastrophe in milk production could result from the labour shortage that is driving up food prices.
According to the cooperative, the rising cost of producing milk as a result of the conflict in Ukraine is only one of the many problems now affecting the dairy industry. According to the ONS, the cost of dairy products skyrocketed in May. Low-fat milk prices rose by 28.5% year-over-year, butter by 14.1%, and cheese and curd by 33.4%.
According to a poll conducted by the cooperative, which represents one-third of Britain’s dairy producers, a lack of qualified workers is making an already difficult situation even worse.
In the words of the organization’s head of agriculture, Paul Savage: “We are at serious risk of continued food price inflation and longer-term food security issues if we don’t tackle this now.”
Almost three-fifths of Arla members polled stated it was harder to hire staff than in 2019, with the end of free movement of EU workers due to Brexit and the pandemic being cited as the main causes.
Twelve percent of dairy farmers surveyed said they were considering leaving the industry altogether due to labour shortages. Others expressed concern that they could have to decrease milk production or herd size due to labour shortages.
Because of the difficulty in hiring labour, farmers have increased wages, which has increased payroll costs. Six hundred farmers were polled by Arla in March, and on average, they reported a 22% rise in employee compensation since the beginning of the year.
Sixty percent of dairy farmers surveyed indicated they anticipated wage pressure to persist throughout the next year, which would have a negative effect on food prices.
The group is advocating for government and business collaboration to increase the number of young people working in the food and agriculture industries.
Arla discovered that young people have a shallow grasp of what modern farming entails, and that over half of the farmers polled (55%) reported that none or very few of the applicants for current jobs have the necessary abilities.
The cooperative has also urged government officials to improve apprenticeship programmes and the T-level vocational qualification as means to enter the farming industry.
Savage argued that dairy producers needed to dispel stereotypes about their business. Getting new people to enter the field is a major obstacle.
He praised farmers for being “at the forefront of tackling climate change” because of their use of cutting-edge technology and information. All of these are known to play a significant role in people’s professional decisions.
Arla farmer Harry Davies has witnessed the strain that worker shortages have on milk production costs.
“A career in dairy farming is extremely rewarding with our role in feeding the nation, playing our part in reducing emissions, and caring for the land around us,” Davies said. “But we can’t get the word out without the help of the public.”
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