THE Government must recognise the specific needs of the British dairy industry so it remains competitive post-Brexit.

Minette Batters, NFU deputy president, said policies must be right on trade, labour and a domestic agricultural policy.

Speaking at the South West Dairy Show, she said 80 per cent of UK dairy exports currently go to the EU. Any future deal with the EU must maintain two-way tariff-free trade in agricultural goods and avoid costly and disruptive customs checks, processes and procedures.

Mrs Batters said: "Domestically, import displacement offers a significant opportunity for the UK dairy industry as we are only around 75 per cent self-sufficient.

"This is especially true for products such as Cheddar cheese and yoghurt which we can produce here given the right production and processing incentives and support."

But she highlighted the threat posed by a lack of labour.

"Today there are 43 adverts for dairy herdsmen in the Farmers Weekly and a backlog of jobs to fill with most dairy labour agencies," she said. "Dairy farms are closing, not because of milk price, but because they can’t find able staff to take on the roles available.

"If Government wants the dairy industry to produce more, consume more and export more, we need an urgent solution to the lack of availability of dairy farm labour – this cannot currently be filled by domestic or migrant workers."

She said the forthcoming Agriculture Bill provides a huge opportunity for the NFU to influence policy makers on what agriculture needs to be competitive, progressive and profitable. Government must create a legislative framework that works best for British farmers.

"The short term future is bright for British dairy farmers. But we need to make sure the policy is right on trade, labour and domestic agricultural policy to ensure that they can also thrive in the medium and long term."