‘Not enough turkeys’ for Britons this Christmas

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There are not enough turkeys for Christmas this year due to serious staff shortages caused by Brexit, UK poultry producers have warned, stated reports on Thursday (19). 

The British Poultry Council (BPC) said its members, which include 2 Sisters Food Group – the country’s largest supplier of supermarket chicken- and KellyBronze Turkeys, had told them that one in six jobs were unfilled as a result of EU workers leaving the UK after Brexit.

The poultry industry employs more than 40,000 people but there are nearly 7,000 vacancies, the BPC said. The body has called on the UK government to include poultry meat supply chain workers on the ‘skilled worker list’ and ‘shortage occupation list’.

The council’s chief executive, Richard Griffiths, added that the group had written to the home secretary Priti Patel this month asking for the government to relax immigration rules but had not yet received a response.

UK food security will be “hit with a double whammy of food inflation and being forced to rely on more imported food”, BPC said, adding that this can lead to “a two-tier food system where high-quality British food is out of reach for many struggling consumers”.

BPC’s claim comes a few days after it was reported that restaurant chain Nando’s had to temporarily close more than 40 outlets in Britain due to staff shortages. Last week KFC said supply chain issues were disrupting its food and packaging stocks nationwide. Supermarkets have also been reportedly struggling to fill shelves amid a serious shortage of HGV drivers that is affecting areas such as milk deliveries.

Paul Kelly, the managing director of KellyBronze, which produces hand-plucked, free-range turkeys, said big producers may opt to rear fewer birds if they were not confident of securing the 1,500 to 2,000 extra staff needed to pluck, pack and deliver the birds in December.

“There will be a massive shortage because companies cannot risk hatching turkeys and pushing them on the farm if they can’t get the workers to do the job,” The Guardian quoted Kelly. “It would be financial suicide. Turkey after Christmas Day is worth nothing.”

Ranjit Singh Boparan, the founder of 2 Sisters, said that the “pingdemic” – which forced large numbers of workers to self-isolate after being “pinged” by NHS test and trace – had masked an industry, which was already at crisis point owing to Brexit-related labour shortages.

It was reported earlier that about 15 per cent of jobs at 2 Sister’s 16,000-member workforce were vacant.

“The critical labour issue alone means we walk a tightrope every week at the moment,” said Boparan, who warned that without government help food waste would rocket “simply because it cannot be processed or delivered”.

The British Meat Processors Association has also called on the government to allow their production workers on the Home Office’s shortage occupation list, which will enable more workers to come from overseas, reports said.