British households are facing a shortage of Christmas turkeys unless the government is prepared to grant exemptions from quarantine restrictions to seasonal foreign workers, the British Poultry Council (BPC) has warned.
The council said it was seeking an urgent exemption for at least 1,000 seasonal poultry workers coming from Eastern Europe.
Failure to admit the workers from Poland, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia to the UK at the end of October 2020 could see Christmas diners going without turkeys or facing soaring costs.
Richard Griffiths, chief executive at the BPC, said: “The seasonal turkey sector is vital to delivering the Great British Christmas and it cannot survive without access to non-UK labour.
“If these vacancies cannot be filled, it will have a significant impact on the production of, and therefore cost of food – all of which will pose a risk to affordability and potentially force people to go without food this Christmas.”
The BPC said there were not enough UK-based workers with training and qualifications to slaughter and process Christmas turkeys and the industry was heavily reliant on licenced and trained EU workers.
Griffiths said it would require a lengthy training and recruitment period to replace the EU labour within the UK and it was unfeasible to train and upskill UK workers within the short window available before Christmas.
Workers are required to be certified by the Food Standards Agency in Watok –Welfare of Animals at Time of Killing – and licensed to kill or slaughter animals.
“If the sector cannot bring in trained workers from outside the UK, then the level and quality of production will be significantly compromised,” he said.
“Government must ensure that British poultry meat, and the quality it represents, stays affordable and available for all.”
☛ Want to stay up to date with the news? Sign up to our daily bulletin.