THE BRITISH POULTRY COUNCIL (BPC) is seeking an urgent exemption for seasonal poultry workers from quarantine restrictions who typically travel each year from Eastern European countries to support the sector.
According to the BPC, ‘at least’ 1,000 people travel in autumn each year to process seasonal turkeys across the UK.
Producers are heavily reliant on this workforce, as workers must be both licenced and trained in skilled farming, processing and butchery techniques.
In most cases, staff must have a Welfare at Time of Killing (WATOK) qualification, and the BPC has warned there is not enough time to train up a UK-based workforce before this Christmas.
Most travellers to the UK from around the world have to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.
But there are some exemptions, including for seasonal horticulture workers, who can start work on a designated farm but must not leave it for the first two weeks after their arrival in the UK.
That exemption does not appear to apply to the turkey sector.
The BPC’s chief executive, Richard Griffiths, said: “The seasonal turkey sector is vital to delivering the Great British Christmas and it cannot survive without access to non-UK labour.
“If the sector cannot bring in trained workers from outside the UK asap, then the level and quality of production will be significantly compromised.
“Government must ensure that British poultry meat, and the quality it represents, stays affordable and available for all.
“Losing control of how we feed ourselves as a nation would penalise British food producers at a time when we should be taking matters of food security into our own hands.”
A Defra spokesman said: “We recognise and appreciate our dedicated farmers who continue to work tirelessly during this challenging time to keep our nation fed.
“We are working with industry to assess needs and ensure a steady supply of British turkeys as we approach Christmas.”