Potential meat shortages due to rising Covid-19 cases, says BMPA
The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) has warned that plans to bring more butchers from the EU may be disrupted amid a rise in Covid-19 cases.
Up to 800 pork butchers are now eligible to apply for visas from the existing allocation in the Seasonal Workers Pilot Scheme, allowing them to travel and work in the UK for a period of six months.
However, the rising number of Covid-19 cases and travel restrictions imposed due to the Omicron variant could disrupt workers getting into the UK.
Limited shortages, but few alternatives
Nick Allen, chief executive of BMPA, told The Telegraph: “Most of these people are still looking like they’re going to be coming from Europe or eastern Europe, and things are changing fast Covid-wise in terms of Europe, so that’s one of the things that could really throw this off course.”
Allen said that butchers would hold off coming to the UK until after the festive period. He added that the meat industry would prioritise Christmas favourites over other choices.
He said that BMPA members have “cut down the choices and cut the number of lines to try to keep the volume of products going through.”
Allen added: “There probably won’t be too many shortages on the shelves, but there won’t be the choice of alternatives.”
“A two-year re-balancing exercise”
A BMPA spokesperson said: “The government needs to face reality and allow more workers into the country to take up jobs [in the UK labour market] immediately. The kind of experienced workers we need simply don’t exist in the UK right now and it will take the next two years to recruit and train British people.”
BMPA stated that the UK government needs to review the level of English required of migrant workers. Currently, it’s around A Level standard which BMPA insists is “an unnecessary barrier for those seeking a job that requires more manual skill.”
The spokesperson added: “There’s also no mention of food processing in the new T Courses announced recently, and food barely appears in the National Curriculum.
“This is a two year ‘re-balancing’ exercise, not a quick fix before Christmas and, come New Year’s Day, this labour crisis will still be strangling the British food industry.”