Turkey shortages: Meat industry forced to go 'cold turkey' without EU labour

3 October 2021, 11:58

By Elizabeth Haigh

A leading meat industry boss has told LBC that the government is forcing the industry to "go cold turkey" without EU labour.

Nick Allen, CEO of the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), told Swarbrick on Sunday that turkey farmers "will be short of supply" this Christmas due to a lack of labour from the EU.

He said that although government measures such as the 5,500 extra visas for poultry workers "will help", it is still going to be "touch and go".

He told Tom most workers will not arrive until November.

"It's going to be a tight run thing," he said.

"Turkey suppliers are still going to be under pressure despite what the government has done."

Asked why the visas would not solve the problem, Mr Allen explained that farmers were unable to rear as many turkeys this year due to the labour shortage, and it is now too late to rear more in time for Christmas.

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"Farmers haven't known whether they're going to be able to get a labour supply or not, they have not actually put the turkeys into the system in the first place.

"The government only made this announcement last week. A lot of turkeys should have been on the farm a long time ago, you can't suddenly just conjure them up."

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Mr Allen told Tom that the BMPA had warned the government of the "impending problem" of labour shortages 18 months ago.

According to Mr Allen, the Migration Advisory Commission recommend to the government that butchers be put on the shortage occupation list to help ease labour shortages, but the Home Office declined to implement those recommendations.

He said: "We've spent 40 years developing a system that has given us access to 500 million people in Europe. Now they've shut the door."

"They've almost made us go cold turkey on this."

Asked whether the UK could not fill the labour gap itself, Mr Allen said that is a long term solution and cannot happen quickly enough for Christmas.

"You cannot just suddenly switch on a new labour supply from this country. It's just not there."

He concluded: "The government needs to look at this over a longer term."

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