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Agriculture left in the lurch: UK's overlooked farming labour crisis

In a surprising move, the government’s recent overhaul of the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) has bypassed the agricultural and horticultural sectors.

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The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has maintained its stance of excluding these industries from the SOL, despite pressing labour shortages.

Tom Bradshaw, NFU deputy president, underscored the shortage of skilled workers, from milkers to tractor drivers, impacting the efficiency and productivity of the agricultural sector.

A Glimmer of Hope

Despite the setback, Bradshaw remains optimistic, noting the MAC’s willingness to consider future evidence of labour shortages. The acute seasonal needs of the horticulture and poultry sectors are areas of particular concern.

A Comprehensive Review

The MAC’s review, commissioned by the government, has added 10 new occupations to the SOL, notably in the construction and care sectors.

However, the absence of agricultural and horticultural roles continues, with over 40 occupations listed, none of which cater to the farming industry.

Future Prospects

While the MAC remains unconvinced about the SOL’s efficacy in addressing UK labour shortages, the government is urged to consider a more nuanced, occupation-specific approach.

As the dialogue continues, the agricultural sector awaits a resolution that acknowledges and addresses its critical labour needs.


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