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.
A new farming system which would see a wider uptake of share farming could enable thousands of young people to get their first foot on the farming ladder according to the Country Land and Business Association.
With the Great Yorkshire Show this week it seemed fitting to keep update with the latest farming news. If a quarter of the country’s farmers aged over 65 entered into share farming agreements, more than 3,000 new entrants could start working the land, the CLA said as it announced a new drive to encourage share farming at the Great Yorkshire Show.
But the campaign is “misguided”, the Tenant Farmers Association said. Chief executive George Dunn said share farming was a way for landowners to benefit from the tax system and that ministers were happy to back the farming model because it was “an easy win”. Instead, effort should be concentrated on securing more long term tenancy arrangements, he said.
CLA president Henry Robinson dismissed the TFA’s criticism, insisting now was the right time to promote share farming because agricultural college’s were full of potential new entrants who were interested in new ways of working: “Share farming not only offers older farmers a way of reducing their workload while maintaining an income but also gives new entrants an increasingly rare opportunity to start a career in agriculture.”
The farming model differs from traditional contract farming, in that both parties share the risk and the profits on a pre-agreed percentage. The existing farmer provides a proportion of his farmland for the partner to deploy their own workforce and machinery.
Environment Minister Owen Paterson said he believes the arrangement had a lot to offer.
“Share farming gives new entrants more opportunities to start a business and build up their skills drawing from farmers with many years’ experience.”