Farmers could be extinct by 2035 unless the industry’s skills shortage is addressed, according to farming skills council Lantra.

Nearly 16,000 agricultural workers leave the industry every year, while 38% of the agricultural workforce is expected to retire within the next decade, Lantra said. This meant British farmers could have disappeared within 27 years.

Peter Martin, Lantra chief exe-cutive, said the UK would have to increase imports to sustain itself unless more young people were encouraged to join the industry and workers were given better training.

In response to the “crisis”, Lantra has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the importance of jobs in the agricultural sector.

The campaign will also aim to improve workers’ skills and help them develop their career.

Writing on FWiSpace, forum member CornishJeff said it was vital more people were encouraged into the industry through better wages and working conditions.

“These figures [from Lantra] are worrying but I can’t see where we are going to import all our food from if this does happen. We as a nation have to encourage more people to get in to farming.”

M Gott said he agreed there needed to be more encouragement for new entrants in the industry, but said the skills of the older generation also needed to be retained. “If nothing else it would put all those bored old farmers you see sitting round the auctions to good use.”

But Stuart Meikle said he thought profit increases and a shortage of fossil fuels in future could lead to people returning to the industry. “I predict that in 20 years’ time we will see a greater percentage of the population in the UK working in the agricultural and food sectors, not less.”