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Turkey farmers across the UK face difficult Christmas season

UK turkey farmers report challenges sourcing seasonal staff to process birds in time for the Christmas rush.

13 November 2020, at 7:00am

Reuters reports that the lack of staff and complications from the coronavirus pandemic could mean that farmers are unable to fulfil orders for home deliveries.

Speaking to Reuters, turkey farmer Tom Copas says that fortunately for him, after spells of panic-buying in Britain and the sight of empty supermarket shelves, many consumers are buying several turkeys to make sure they have one for Christmas.

"[This year] started off being business as usual because we aren't used to selling anything until Christmas time anyway," said Copas, surrounded by gobbling birds.

"But bringing our seasonal team over to work and process the turkeys has been more challenging because of the uncertainty of travel and travel arrangements being cancelled."

Copas, whose family has worked the farm west of London since 1901, said 2020 had proved tough as they had had no idea of the looming health crisis when they ordered young birds to rear.

"We have 10 to 12 different breeds of turkey which we have to get to the right weight by Christmas. But we have to order those by February. Before COVID happened we already had the turkeys on the way, if not actually on the ground on the farm. We've had to work with what we've got and based on previous years orders."

People seem to be ordering Christmas turkeys as they did last year, he said, despite the uncertainty over what kind of celebrations will be allowed and with what restrictions.

"In fact, people are ordering more or getting additional turkeys like frozen turkeys to make sure they've got one for Christmas," he said.

A five-kilo, free-range, whole bronze turkey from Copas Traditional Turkeys costs 88 pounds ($116).

"Although there is more demand for the smaller products people are also quite happy to buy the bigger products."

($1 = 0.7569 pounds)

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