Warning that Brexit could stop foreign farm workers
Farmers have been warned it will become increasingly harder to rely on labourers from Europe – whatever happens with the Brexit deal.
Harper Adams University farm business lecturer Wyn Morgan said even if the free movement of people in the UK continues, the number of people working in agriculture in countries such as Poland is declining.
He was speaking at yesterday’s UK Dairy Day in Telford where he said farm labour post Brexit would be challenging.
New immigration rules could hit lower skilled workers looking to come to the UK – making it difficult for industries such as agriculture which rely on recruiting temporary and full-time employees from overseas.
“The number of farm workers in this country has more or less stayed the same compared with 10 years ago,” Mr Morgan said.
“The big fall has been the number of dairy farmers, with a number of people leaving the industry because of age or milk prices.
“We have filled the gap by importing labour from Poland principally and one or two other countries. Brexit has rather brought that home with a large bang.
“The free flow of people in the UK will come to an end and the government has been pretty poor at giving us any indication of what is likely to happen.
“There’s been talk of a short-term, casual scheme which doesn’t really help our industry very much as we need full-time people.
“I would have a problem with politicians in Brussels coming up with a solution to a problem in my business.
“If Polish people don’t want to come over, the numbers of people employed in other European countries working in the agricultural sector are pretty small.
“We are pulling those people from a very small population. People working in agriculture in Poland is declining so the ready trained staff aren’t so easily available.
“Even if we did have a free movement of people, and that did continue, I think it is going to get increasing harder to rely on people from Poland and Romania.”
Mr Morgan said options to farmers included investing in robotics to reduce the amount of labour on farms.