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BPC voices concerns of potential labour shortages during Christmas period

The British Poultry Council is urging the UK government to think of the implications the Immigration Bill and COVID-19 requirements could have on the UK's food supply.

22 October 2020, at 7:30am

The British Poultry Council is seeking an urgent exemption for non-UK seasonal poultry workers from quarantine restrictions to ensure Christmas supply does not collapse. The proposed exemption will cover at least 1000 seasonal workers coming from Poland, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia at the end of October 2020.

British Poultry Council, Chief Executive, Richard Griffiths, said

“The seasonal turkey sector is vital to delivering the Great British Christmas and it cannot survive without access to non-UK labour. The seasonal turkey industry needs to bring in at least 1000 workers for the 2020 Christmas period. If these vacancies cannot be filled, it will have a significant impact on the production of, and therefore cost of food – all of which will pose a risk to affordability and potentially force people to go without food this Christmas.

There is a shortage of UK-based workers with the necessary training and qualifications to slaughter and process Christmas turkeys. Turkey producers are heavily reliant on licenced and trained EU workers with specific farming, processing, and butchery skills. These skills cannot be replaced without a lengthy training and recruitment period. The type of skills (WATOK trained, licensed etc) turkey production requires are not available amongst UK workers, particularly not amongst the pool of those who are currently unemployed. Also, it will be unfeasible to train and upskill UK workers within the short window available.

If the sector cannot bring in trained workers from outside the UK, then the level and quality of production will be significantly compromised. Government must ensure that British poultry meat, and the quality it represents, stays affordable and available for all. Losing control of how we feed ourselves as a nation would penalise British food producers at a time when we should be taking matters of food security into our own hands.”

Click here to view the written evidence the BPC submitted to the EFRA Committee on this issue.