Page 23 - Farm labour in the UK
P. 23

Farm labour in the UK | Accessing the workforce the industry needs
  Interviews revealed that farm labour shortages are likely to have a significant impact on farm businesses in the UK, including the following:
. Lack of skills will lead to a drop in production. One employer, following the Feed the Nation campaign in 2020, said:
“Although we might have had access to a domestic labour force because of COVID, they weren’t very good. Whereas migrant labour, let’s take fruit pickers for example, seem to be very good and they tend to be paid very well because they are experts in what they do” (Farming rep 1)
Another stakeholder working for a farming organisation agreed that production would likely be impacted if farms could not find the labour they need.
“There is a risk that, even with maximised efforts, there will be a shortfall. The potential danger there is that impacts on production” (Labour expert 2)
Agricultural businesses will be forced to cease production. Secondary data reveals that 65% of members of a Scottish representative organisation for the farming industry stated that they were considering down-scaling operations should issues with labour shortages continue, with 31% believing it might cause them to leave farming altogether (Migration Advisory Committee 2020).
One interviewee stated that the costs associated with labour shortages will contribute to farms going out of business. This employer believed that larger business were more vulnerable in some ways than smaller farms, due to lower overheads, claiming, ‘the bigger you play, the further you fall.’
“For very intensive farming it’s absolutely disastrous. You can argue that you’ll replace with robotics but we’re probably 10 years away from teaching a robot to pick a strawberry. So what could happen? What will happen is there will be a shortage of labour so then you’ll have to pay more money, then you get inflation and eventually people will go bankrupt. We’ll import more food and hopefully one day somebody will wake up and say why are we importing all these strawberries? Because you’ve got no workers. Oh, so let’s allow more workers to come in then. And then it will go back round a full circle. However, you’ve got to ask the question, will that strawberry farm be still in business over that period? Will it survive that kind of upheaval?” (Farmer 1)
Other respondents believe that labour shortages will lead to smaller enterprises going out of business. If labour becomes prohibitively scarce, some small farms simply will not be able to afford the automation necessary to keep up.
“Some will go into automation because they recognise the importance of investing in the future but that is capital heavy and at this moment in time that may not be viable or possible to do. We know that smaller farmers who can’t guarantee labour supply will leave” (Farming rep 1)
A representative of a farming organisation described the issue further:
“From an economic point of view if you don’t have enough labour you can’t maintain output and if you can’t maintain output the business will tend to stagnate and in the end that business, rather than continuing to stagnate, it will actually become insolvent” (Farming rep 1)

   21   22   23   24   25