Turkeys could be imported from France and Poland for Christmas if a crushing shortage of workers threatens supermarket stocks
- Industry leaders say this is evidence of a wider crisis across the entire food supply chain
- British Poultry Council chairman Graeme Dear told parliamentary committee a shortage of British turkeys was likely at Christmas
- Farmers decided to keep fewer chicks due to lack of staff in processing factories
- UK may have to import turkeys from France and Poland for Christmas this year
Supermarkets will run out of fresh home-produced turkeys this Christmas, with shops turning to imports from France and Poland, they told MPs.
Industry executives say it’s evidence of a wider crisis across the food supply chain caused by a chronic shortage of workers.
British farmers decided to keep fewer chicks this year because they saw that there would not be enough staff in processing factories to handle them.
In evidence at an inquiry by Members of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, British Poultry Council Chairman Graeme Dear said there was a “likelihood” that there was. a shortage of British turkeys for Christmas.
About 20 percent fewer birds have been reared on UK farms this year.
Industry executives have said there is a ‘likelihood’ that there will be a shortage of British turkeys for Christmas this year
The government recently announced that it would allow 5,500 poultry plant workers on short-term visas, but it came too late to increase the number of turkeys being reared.
Mr Dear said: “The irony is that we might have to import turkey from France and Poland for a British Christmas, probably with some of the same workers we trained and left to return to their home countries. “
Industry executives have said a combination of Brexit and tight immigration controls, as well as the coronavirus, where many foreign workers have chosen to return home, sparked the crisis.
Tom Bradshaw, of the National Farmers’ Union, said the organization was embroiled in constant battles with the Home Office over the need to allow more foreign workers.
A seasonal worker program allows some 30,000 overseas workers to help with the UK harvest, but the NFU says that figure needs to be raised to 50,000-60,000.
Mr. Bradshaw said: “The food waste that we see at the farm level… is totally inexcusable. “