Page 17 - Farm labour in the UK
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Farm labour in the UK | Accessing the workforce the industry needs
 found that 80% of respondents were concerned about staff recruitment. 63% of farmers had experienced difficulty finding staff in the last five years and 42% had employed staff from outside the UK in the last five years, an increase of 10% from 2014. The main reasons given were insufficient numbers available within the domestic workforce and the willingness to work of EU workers (RABDF 2020).
Almost all employers responding to a similar survey in 2016 survey agreed that using EU labour had been a successful option for their business, with the majority of workers coming from Poland and Romania. EU staff were, at the time, rarely regarded as transient or temporary, with the expectation being that many would remain for three or more years. 33% of dairy farmers stated that they would now consider leaving the industry due to lack of labour (RABDF 2020).
The UK is home to almost 11,000 holdings with pigs, ranging from small to industrial-scale farm sizes (AHDB 2020), and with multiple associated jobs in production and processing stemming from the sector. In 2017 the National Pig Association released a press statement reporting labour-related challenges (NPA 2017). Based on responses from 138 respondents with employee numbers ranging from fewer than ten to more than 50, the findings show that producers anticipate sourcing all of their labour requirements from within the UK as being ‘very difficult’, ‘impossible’ or ‘possible but not straightforward’.
Just over half of those who responded said that they employ at least one non-UK worker with many recruiting more than a quarter of their labour from outside the UK. Almost all of these workers came from the EU and were employed on a permanent basis. While many are likely to have gained settled status prior to the UK leaving the EU, if any workers decide to leave, the sector might struggle to fill some of these roles, being unable to benefit from the temporary nature of the new permit scheme, and having to rely instead on meeting the prerequisites of the new points system (Gov.UK 2020d).
Arable farms tend to require less labour than horticultural units, at approximately 18 hours per hectare per year compared to 425 hours per hectare for soft fruits (Migration Advisory Committee 2013). This is because many crops can be managed using machines. However, a large proportion of work carried out on many holdings, particularly those operating arable or mixed farming systems, is performed by agricultural contractors. Due to the fast pace of technological change, agricultural machinery has become prohibitively expensive for many land managers and investing in large equipment has no cost-benefit when it is usually only required for a few days or weeks a year. Contractors are able to invest in the vehicles necessary to complete the work in an effective, timely and efficient manner and, therefore, play a significant role with regards to farm labour. However, contractors have reported struggling to find skilled staff to fill positions within their firms (Nye 2018) which means that in the long term, even arable farms not normally reliant on large numbers of employees might be affected.
Another sector likely to be impacted is the egg industry, which currently enables the UK to be 85% self-sufficient in eggs. Employing over 10,000 people directly, with another 13,000 employed indirectly, the egg industry has become particularly reliant upon EU workers for entry level roles, reporting 35-40% of staff working on egg farms as coming from the EU (House of Commons 2017b).
Poultry meat makes up half of the meat eaten in the UK, and directly employs 38,500 people in production and processing (BPC 2020). Many of the jobs involved are skilled or highly skilled and require at least 3 months of training. The poultry industry alone normally fills approximately 7,200 positions annually with non-UK workers, many of whom are licenced and trained in butchery and processing skills. According to the British Poultry Council, an inability

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