Arla says labour shortages are threatening food production and fuelling inflationary pressures
Arla Foods has warned that a chronic shortage of suitably qualified farm workers is impacting the production of dairy products and contributing to food price inflation.
The maker of Lurpak and Cravendale Milk is also predicting that the situation will get worse unless urgent action is taken by both government and the dairy sector to attract new talent into farming.
The warning follows survey results from 541 of Arla’s UK farmer owners which show that 80% of those looking for workers have received ‘very few’ or ‘zero’ applications from people with the right experience or qualifications. Arla said a combination of the end of free movement of workers from the EU, the aftermath of the pandemic, and a host of other factors mean that more than three-fifths of farmers are finding it more difficult to recruit now than in 2019.
The company also revealed that the worker shortage is affecting production with milk volumes down by around 3% compared to last year. In Arla’s survey, a small but significant number of farmers said they have already reduced output by cutting the number of milkings and/or reduced the size of their herd due to staff shortages.
Arla’s UK managing director Ash Amirahmadi said: “Addressing the labour shortage and the implications this could have for food security is vitally important. Now is the time for all of us, across government and industry, to work urgently and collaboratively to shift outdated misconceptions about farming and bring new talent into the industry.
“That’s why I’ve written to the Secretary of State today calling on him to accelerate the review of the labour market promised in the Food Strategy White Paper, and for him to commit to a new cross-departmental strategy to bring talent into food and farming, making it a career of choice for people from all backgrounds.
“If we don’t act now the current shortages of people will only get worse, jeopardising production on farms, undermining our food security and further fuelling higher prices for consumers.”
Conducted in May 2022, Arla’s research covered around a quarter of all the cooperative’s farmers in the UK, who in total make up around 30% of all dairy farmers.
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