Food industry welcomes temporary visas
Organisations from across the food supply chain have reacted positively to the change in legislation but warn that solutions are still needed for “the wider labour needs.”
The government has announced that up to 5,500 poultry workers will be able to work in the UK for three months until 24th December, through the Temporary Workers route. Up to 5,000 HGV drivers will also be able to come to the UK to transport food and fuel in the run-up to Christmas.
On the back of the announcement, the government stated that the UK has “a highly resilient” food supply chain which has “coped well in responding to unprecedented challenges.”
“Needed more than ever”
British Poultry Council (BPC) chief executive Richard Griffiths said: “The government’s move to allow temporary workers for the poultry meat sector will be welcomed by seasonal producers.
“Temporary workers from outside the UK have long been vital to delivering Christmas for our sector and given the unprecedented challenges of the last year they are needed more than ever. British turkey and goose are the centrepiece of Christmas dinners across the country and we are pleased that government has listened.”
He went on to say that there is a risk that the government’s intervention “comes too late.” Griffiths explained: “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.”
”We must find solutions”
Responding to the government’s announcement, vice president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), Tom Bradshaw, said: “Following our letter to the Prime Minister earlier this week, in which we asked him to urgently implement a Covid Recovery Visa to alleviate labour shortages, we welcome today’s announcement to add HGV drivers and poultry workers to existing visa schemes.
“The NFU has worked with the wider food and drink industry to help evidence the needs of the sector and we look forward to working with government on applying the scheme for poultry and, in particular, access for smaller producers.”
Bradshaw went onto say that NFU will continue to work with government “to find solutions for the wider labour needs, including trained and able butchers for pork production to deal with the increasingly serious build-up of pigs on farm and the risk of welfare issues.”
“It’s a start”
Chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), Ian Wright CBE, said: “This is something UK food and drink manufacturers have asked for over the last few months – including in industry’s Grant Thornton report – to alleviate some of the pressure labour shortages have placed on the food supply chain.”
Wright added: “This is a start but we need the government to continue to collaborate with industry and seek additional long-term solutions.”