'POINTS-BASED' immigration into the UK threatens to leave dairy farmers shorthanded, as the system will exclude experienced foreign labour.

The Migration Advisory Committee has launched a six-week call for evidence on skills shortages in the UK, prompting the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers to mount what it described as a 'last ditch' attempt to have overseas dairy workers' contribution to the UK economy taken into account.

Dairy workers are not included on the current MAC Shortage Occupation List, and the points-based immigration system being brought in by Boris Johnson's Conservative government will prioritise those with the ‘highest skills and greatest talents’, with dairy workers not falling into those categories.

RABDF managing director Matt Knight said: “Dairy workers are not classed as highly skilled and they are currently not listed on the MAC Shortage Occupation List. This failure to recognize dairy workers will leave the UK dairy industry with a severe labour shortage with some of the largest dairy producers in the UK relying on skilled foreign labour..

“There are real concerns that post-2021 some of our largest, most technically advanced dairy farms could be lost due to their reliance on foreign labour. Should this happen the repercussions would be felt right across the industry, with associated businesses such as feed companies and veterinary practices also affected, let alone the impact on milk supply," he warned.

A survey by RABDF in 2016 found over half of the respondents employed staff from outside of the UK in the last five years – a 24% increase on 2014. Almost two-thirds said this was due to insufficient UK staff being available. In the same survey more than 50% of migrant workers on dairy farms were classed as highly skilled or mainly highly skilled.