An article in The Guardian newspaper has reported that there is likely to be a Christmas turkey shortage if EU workers not allowed in to work in British Poultry farms.
Poultry farmers are urging the government to lift travel restrictions to allow hundreds of specialist EU turkey pluckers to fill jobs in the UK, with a warning that there could be a shortage of birds or higher prices if the restrictions are not waived.
The proposed exemption would cover at least 1,000 seasonal workers who normally travel from Poland, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia at the end of October to help slaughter, pluck and prepare birds destined for UK Christmas dinner tables. It says workers with typical two-month contracts will not come if they have to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival, even if they are provided with Covid-secure accommodation and “work bubbles”.
With lockdown forcing smaller festive gatherings, farmers are finding it difficult to predict consumer demand, and there are fears that larger birds will be out of favour.
Chicks – or poults – typically ordered in February grace the Christmas dinner table as fully grown birds the following year. According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), between January and June 2020 there were 6.2m poults being reared on farms, compared with 6.1m in the same period in 2019.
Intensive meat processing plants have already fallen victim to outbreaks of Covid-19. A thousand staff at Bernard Matthews’ facility in Holton, Suffolk, have been tested after 72 colleagues were found to be Covid-19 positive.