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Sector Information

The agricultural, animal and land-based industries, as defined by Lantra Sector Skills Council, comprises 17 industries that can be clustered into:


Total productivity across the wider agricultural sector has risen steadily since the 1970s as the sector has become more efficient, producing more with less. The sector has increased the value of its outputs by 20% since 1973, despite labour falling by 20%.

Source: Lantra AACS LMI report 2010 and Skill Assessment for the Environmental and Land-based sector UK 2009

Sector businesses

There are 230,000 businesses across the sector, comprising 9% of all business across the UK. The sector is dominated by the agricultural livestock and agricultural crops industries, which account for 54% of businesses in the sector. This contributes to the Land management and production cluster covering 65% of the sector businesses. The animal health and welfare cluster accounts for 10% of businesses and the environmental industries account for 16%. The remaining 8% of businesses provide services to agriculture.

A significant proportion of the businesses in the sector are based in the rural economy. Across the UK 25% of all business units are located in rural areas, compared with 87% of businesses in the environmental and land-based sector. Some industries within the sector have more of an urban focus, such as floristry and horticulture, landscaping and sports turf.

Source: Lantra AACS LMI report 2010 and Skill Assessment for the Environmental and Land-based sector UK 2009

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There are over 1,126,000 people employed in the sector and in environmental and land-based jobs in other sectors. This equates to 4% of all employment across the UK.

In addition, there are around 500,000 regular volunteer workers across the sector. Voluntary organisations range from large, well established and significantly resourced organisations such as the Blue Cross, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the National Trust and BTCV (formerly the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers), through to smaller, locally-based organisations typically employing fewer than 10 staff.

Micro-businesses dominate the sector; 96% of the businesses employ less than ten people. Approximately 42% of the workforce is self-employed.

79% of employment within the environmental and land-based sector is full-time, compared with 75% in the UK economy as a whole. The level of full-time employment varies by nation such that Northern Ireland has the highest proportion of full-time workers (87%), and Wales has the lowest level (72%).

Source: Lantra AACS LMI report 2010 and Skill Assessment for the Environmental and Land-based sector UK 2009

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Employment trends

Employment in the sector has fallen by 24% since 1997, and forecasts suggest overall employment levels will continue to decrease at a slower rate. Despite the decline in employment levels the sector has a significant future labour requirement, mainly due to the high levels of replacement demand driven by the workforce age profile.

The sector will need to attract 110,000 new entrants over the next ten years, which is considered to be an underestimate as a number of industries are not included in the forecast.

The proportion of workers employed in high-skilled occupations has risen from 16% in 1997 to 20% in 2007. This is forecast to rise to 23% by 2017. Overall, the proportion of workers employed in low-skilled occupations has decreased from 37% in 1997 to 34% in 2007. This is forecast to decrease further to 31% by 2017. The reduction in low-skilled occupations is seen in England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, but in Wales the proportion has remained almost constant.

Source: Skill Assessment for the Environmental and Land-based sector UK 2009 and Working Futures 2007-2017

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Drivers of change

Climate change – This is having a significant effect on the processes and operations of the sector. The sector has the ability to not only produce non-fossil fuels, but to produce sustainable alternatives and so contribute to the overall reduction in greenhouse gases.

Food security – Businesses need to be able to identify and manage risk as consumers increasingly expect high standards and a wide range of choice of products.

Animal health and welfare –The Animal Welfare Act [and Animal Health and Welfare Act (Scotland)] is the most comprehensive modernisation of laws on domestic and captive animals for a century. A new duty of care, together with the consolidation and review of over 20 pieces of animal welfare legislation relating to farmed and non-farmed animals has provided these industries with an array of factors affecting business performance and professional development.

Energy and fuel security – Not only are the operating costs of the sector adversely affected by this global market change, but the sector is now being regarded as a sector able to research and develop potential (and sustainable) solutions.

Labour supply – The sector has an ageing workforce in an increasingly competitive job market. The expansion of the EU has provided new sources of migrant labour, but also restricted seasonal schemes as new migration policy is implemented. The sector needs to raise its profile and that of the highly skilled jobs and career progression open to those working in the sector.

Economic – Much of the sector operates within a policy-driven framework, whether driven by UK governments, European Union or the World Trade Organisation. The evolution of markets both within the EU and globally and increased competition and changes in consumer behaviour means that markets for products and services are constantly being redefined.

Health and safety – Whilst this is an issue for all industries in the sector, some industries by the nature of the work they carry out are considered as priority targets by the Health and Safety Executive, particularly agriculture, horticulture and forestry.

Source: Lantra AACS LMI report 2010 and Skill Assessment for the Environmental and Land-based sector UK 2009

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