Skills shortage sees UK meat producers send carcasses to EU butchers
The ongoing labour shortage has led to meat producers sending beef to the Republic of Ireland to be butchered, according to the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA).
Processed carcasses are then being shipped back to the UK, resulting in additional fees and customs paperwork costs of £1,500 for each lorryload, the BMPA told the BBC.
Pork producers are expected to start sending pigs to the Netherlands to be butchered, following the culling of thousands of healthy pigs on UK farms. The National Pig Association has said that 10,000 animals have been killed so far due to staff shortages at abattoirs and meat processing plants. Staff numbers in the industry are currently down by around 15%.
Last month the UK government announced that it would allow 800 pork butchers to enter the country for up to six months under the Seasonal Worker visa scheme, along with a private storage aid scheme to support the pig sector.
Nick Allen, chief executive of the BMPA, told the Financial Times that the backlog wasn’t getting worse but it wasn’t getting better, saying farmers “are just about keeping their heads above water at the moment.”
A BMPA spokesperson said that exporting carcasses for butchering was “what needs to be done to counteract the problem.”
It added: “Immigration rules need to be relaxed so we can get experienced people without having to train them to help solve the immediate short-term problem. Then we need to be attracting, recruiting and training people in the UK. This is not an instant fix, however, as we are looking at 18 months or longer to train these people.”