The UK faces Christmas without turkey this year, and in the future, as Brexit work schemes are set to interfere with seasonal labour needs.
The British Poulty Council (BPC) has condemned the Home Office’s Immigration & Social Security Coordination Bill, introduced to parliament ahead of the Brexit transition period ending on December 31st.
BPC Chief Executive Richard Griffiths, has said, “The British turkey industry is heavily reliant on licensed and trained EU workers with specific farming, processing, and butchery skills … the food on the nation’s dinner tables is being produced in large part by the people who their proposed immigration policy undervalues.”
This Christmas is proving a practice run for trying to ensure supply without access to EU labour. The BPC says it urgently needs an exemption on Covid quarantine restrictions for at least 1,000 seasonal workers coming from Poland, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia. This is to ensure this year’s supply doesn’t collapse.
Sixty percent of the sector’s workforce is made up of EU nationals
Richard Griffiths wrote to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee saying that the Government’s Immigration Bill will have a “catastrophic impact on labour within the seasonal poultry meat sector as well as all year-round production.
“Every year around 7,200 vacancies need to be filled with non-UK workers to rear one billion birds for meat.
“If the sector cannot bring in trained workers from outside the UK, then the level and quality of production will be significantly compromised.”
He added that the government must ensure British poultry, and the quality it represents, stays affordable and available, “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.”
Sixty percent of the sector’s workforce is made up of EU nationals. Richard Griffiths says that the sector offers well above the UK’s national living wage, but the inability to offer long term contracts and the labour-intensive work makes it particularly unattractive to UK workers.