DEFRA has said it will make 2,000 Seasonal Worker visas available to the poultry sector ending uncertainty for turkey producers and processors.
Last year a temporary visa scheme was introduced specifically for 5,500 poultry workers in the lead up to Christmas 2021.
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At the time, the government was criticised for making the allowance in late September.
British Poultry Council chief executive Richard Griffiths said: “Supply chains are not something that can be simply switched on and off, so plans for production are already well underway and the necessary cutbacks due to ongoing labour shortages have already been made.”
Upon this latest announcement, Mr Griffiths said it was welcome that poultry was now part of the Seasonal Worker visa route in and that the numbers required would be reviewed based on need.
“The announcement that the government will provide an additional 2,000 places for poultry this year under SAWS as part of their NFS is a big win for the poultry sector.
“Poultry makes up half the meat the nation eats. Labour shortages, driven by the effects of Brexit and compounded by factors like the pandemic, have demonstrated the importance of adopting realistic policies that enable British businesses to drive productivity, create good jobs and keep food moving to strengthen food security in a thriving country post-Brexit.
“The visa scheme, combined with a review into labour challenges plaguing the food and farming sector, will play a meaningful role in ensuring certainty in our workforce in peak periods to guarantee the robustness of our supply chains.”
A Defra spokesperson said: “Initially designed as a pilot, this visa route has been progressively expanded and on 24 December 2021 it was announced that the Seasonal Worker visa route would be extended to 2024 and expanded to include ornamental horticulture workers, providing more certainty for the horticulture sector.
“In 2022, this initially provided 30,000 visas valid for six months, with scope for up to 10,000 more if there was clear evidence of need.
“To address near-term need, the government are now announcing that those extra 10,000 visas will be made available to sectors in 2022.
“Noting the particular shortage of seasonal workers in the turkey processing industry, we will extend 2,000 visas from the newly released 10,000 visas for the seasonal worker visa route to include poultry, building on the success of our approach in 2021.
“Seasonal poultry workers perform a key role in ensuring that poultry produced in this country gets onto our supermarket shelves, especially in the run-up to Christmas.”