Lack of migrant workers could affect Christmas food supplies

A severe seasonal labour shortage could affect Christmas sales for producers, with one business group claiming that a lack of non-UK poultry workers could lead to the collapse of the industry.

According to the British Poultry Council (BPC), Christmas food supplies are under threat unless trained seasonal workers from Romania, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia are given exemption from COVID-19 quarantine restrictions.

Chief Executive of the BPC, Richard Griffiths, said that if trained workers cannot be brought in from outside the UK, the level and quality of production will be “comprised” and could collapse.

According to Mr Griffiths, there is a shortage of trained UK-based workers whose skills cannot be replaced without a long training and recruitment period. He added that there will be a significant effect on the production and cost of poultry if vacancies in the sector cannot be filled.

His words have been echoed by many recruitment leaders, who have pointed out that a severe labour shortage had already begun developing at the start of 2019, as migrant workers reacted to the UK’s Brexit uncertainty by relocating to EU member countries that could guarantee their employment status.

A spokesman for one recruitment firm specialising in supply chain workers said that the COVID-19 restrictions have exacerbated this problem, causing major disruption to the UK’s working hours.

Meanwhile, even producers who do not rely so heavily on seasonal workers have been severely affected by the pandemic, with 1,000 workers at one intensive meat processing plant having to be tested this month for the virus after 72 colleagues were found to be COVID-19 positive.

The issue of recruitment is just one concern that those in the food production industry, such as farmers, have to compete with during this difficult period. To find out how we can help you to plan for the challenges ahead, please contact us.

Posted in Andrew Heskin, Chris Wright.