THE BRITISH POULTRY COUNCIL (BPC) has said that the Immigration Bill undervalues the UK’s ‘food heroes’ and threatens food security.

Under the Home Office’s Immigration and Social Security Co-Ordination Bill, ‘key workers’ in the food industry are labelled as ‘low skilled’.

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The BPC’s Richard Griffiths said that workers in the poultry supply chain had made ‘extraordinary sacrifices’ to keep the nation fed throughout the coronavirus crisis, and were now feeling unwelcome.

Some 60% of the 23,000-strong workforce in the poultrymeat supply chain are EU nationals, and staff turnover has been put at 30% annually – meaning that about 7,000 roles need to be filled every year.

“Government must recognise that the food on the nation’s dinner tables under lockdown is being produced in large part by the people who their proposed policy will alienate,” he said.

“This Bill is likely to have a crippling effect on British food production and national food security. The UK cannot afford to lose its unsung food heroes who muck in, face the challenges, and risk their lives to feed this country.”

Mr Griffiths called on the government to recognise food as a national security issue.

Food security

“Losing control of how we feed ourselves as a nation would undermine British food producers at a time when we should be taking matters of food security into our own hands.

“Key workers in food, regardless of where they come from, are an important part of Britain’s cultural fabric and prestige. British food businesses deserve an immigration policy that makes it easier for them to retain access to skills and talent that Britain sorely needs.

“The current immigration plan is likely to have a crippling impact on food businesses already facing the consequences of the pandemic and make access to quality British food harder for all,” he added.