The Parliamentary EFRA Committee has warned that the shortage of labour in farming and the food chain has serious consequences. Last year, out of a total workforce of four million, there were half a million vacancies. That led to a quarter of the UK daffodil crop left unpicked and fruit rotting in the fields. The MPs are ‘struck by the Government’s failure to grasp the labour issues’ according to Committee Chairman Neil Parish. Unless the Government takes action to allow more immigration, the crisis will lead to rising prices and more food imported from abroad.
Price of Milk
As the price paid to farmers for milk creeps up towards 40p per litre, a top consultancy firm has reported that nearer 50p is required to cover costs and reverse the chronic reduction in production. Inflation in fuel, fertiliser and feed prices is such that at least 46 to 48p is the cost of production. Last year, 1,000 litres of milk would pay for one tonne of nitrogen fertiliser, now it takes more than 2,000 litres. Shortage of milk is now a distinct possibility in this country.
Cattle and Sheep Numbers
Latest figures released by Defra show that the numbers of cattle and sheep rose slightly in 2021. Last December there were 9.4 million head of cattle in the UK, up 0.8%, and 22.8 million sheep, up 3% on the previous year. Although 15.3 billion litres of milk were produced in 2020, the highest annual figure since 1990, there are fears that the latest inflationary crisis is leading to a rapid decline.
A survey commissioned by the CLA has found that the Conservative vote in rural areas has collapsed. In the 2019 General Election, the share of the vote in the most rural counties, Cornwall, Cumbria, North Yorkshire, Norfolk and Gwynedd was: Conservative 46%, Labour 29% and Liberal Democrat 13%. Now the Conservatives have only 38% with Labour on 36%. The Government has so far failed to heed the warning that rural issues are being routinely ignored and that this is having an adverse impact on their standing.