BERNARD MATTHEWS has recruited close to 900 temporary seasonal workers to support turkey processing this Christmas, the firm has said.
It comes as the 15 November deadline for applications has passed with about half of the total 5,500 allocation filled.
Ranjit Singh Boparan, owner of Bernard Matthews, said the seasonal scheme had proven a success for his business.
The firm said workers had been recruited from countries such as Ukraine, Belarus, Romania, and Bulgaria, providing extra labour capacity in the run-up to Christmas.
The government allocated the 5,500 figure based on poultrymeat sector submissions made at the beginning of the year.
But sources say that, given the government only announced the temporary visa scheme in early Autumn, much of the labour required had already been sourced from elsewhere.
The poultrymeat sector is investing heavily in automation in the hope that significantly less labour will be required in the coming years.
There are, however, short-term challenges in keeping processing plants operational.
Mr Boparan said: “With just a few weeks to go until Christmas, it is very good news to be able to report that here we are in mid-November, and we’re well on the way to plugging the job gaps for the massive volume increases we get during this time of year.
“Our teams have been working incredibly hard to process almost 900 applications for the seasonal worker scheme, and we’ll be seeing the first arrivals at our factories in the coming days.
“This means we should be able to fulfil all our projected orders for turkeys, and there will be enough turkeys to go around.
“Everyone should be able to source their Christmas turkey this year, which is great news.
“We can sometimes be quick to criticise and challenge the government, as I have done myself on several occasions, but we also need to say thank you when we think they’ve got it right, and they deliver.
“The bottom line is that this has helped us save Christmas, not only for us, but all producers in this sector, and of course for the consumer.
“I am hopeful similar arrangements could be made for next year, and with an earlier visa process start date, this could make it even more successful.
“Labour as a key structural challenge for our sector is here for 12 months of the year, and it’s one that’s not going to go away.
“We simply don’t want to see our industry shrinking when the demand is as big as ever, especially at Christmas.
“It would be silly to plug any gaps by using imports, for instance.
“We don’t think the British consumer wants to see that, so hopefully, the same temporary arrangements can also be made for 2022.”