Black Christmas: Turkeys, trees and toys threatened by labor shortage, suppliers say | Supply chain crisis


The UK could face a “national shortage” of turkeys in the run-up to Christmas, caused by a shortage of workers after Brexit, the chairman of an agricultural association has said.

Kate Martin, of the Traditional Farm Fresh Turkey Association (TFTA), said while small UK farms that used local workers had been less affected, supermarket shelves risked being hit by a shortage of skilled European workers.

The TFTA, which represents producers of high-end free-range turkeys, said some poultry farms have already received five times as many orders this year than around the same time in 2020.

Martin told the PA Media news agency, “This year it seems like there is a national shortage of turkeys when we talk about the supermarket shelves, rather than buying direct from your farm.

“It’s the supermarket shelves that will be empty of turkeys this year than before, because there have been fewer turkeys on the ground, because the big processors know they won’t have them processed.”

When asked if supermarkets would run out of turkeys before Christmas, she replied, “I think everyone needs to get their orders very quickly. We have seen an absolutely unprecedented number of orders coming in. At Christmas, if you quit ordering your turkey from your local farm supplier, you’re out of luck.

On whether Brexit was to blame, Martin said: “We are small producers, we use local labor, but for large processors this is 100% caused by a shortage of workforce. This situation with turkeys is caused by the fact that European labor is no longer available for us, and skilled workers have been coming to us for years.

“People are now missing a lot of their workforce that they have trained and invested in over the past few years, and these workers are no longer available to us for seasonal use – they will find work. work in continental Europe. instead of.”

Consumers have also been warned of a potential shortage of Christmas trees and higher prices as supply chain woes spread – and post-Brexit trade rules have been blamed.

Mark Rofe, owner of ChristmasTrees.co.uk, said last week that UK growers were reporting higher demand for locally grown conifers, “particularly from customers who typically import their trees from Europe, but wish to avoid any bureaucracy that could increase costs or cause delays in what is of course a very seasonal and time sensitive activity ”.

Filling the space under the tree could also be trickier this year and costlier as toy retailers report delays and higher prices for shipping goods to the UK from Asian manufacturers.

Last month, the British Poultry Council reported that there were nearly 7,000 vacancies in the industry, leading some chicken farmers to cut production and lead to shortages at restaurant chains Nando’s and KFC.

Producers have said they may choose to keep fewer birds, fearing they won’t have the extra staff to process them in time for Christmas.

On Saturday evening, the British government announced it would issue temporary visas to 5,500 poultry workers and 5,000 truck drivers to help the food and fuel industries in times of shortage.

UK business groups have said the plan will not solve critical labor shortages in the country, which threaten to disrupt Christmas and lead to delays in fueling some gas stations and purchases of panic.

Ruby McGregor-Smith, president of the British Chambers of Commerce, said the government should have come up with a plan to help businesses deal with Brexit from the start. “Instead, the EU’s labor supply has been cut without a clear roadmap on how this transition would be managed without disrupting services and supply chains,” he said. she declared.

Lady McGregor-Smith said the UK does not offer enough temporary visas. “Even if these short-term opportunities attract the maximum number of people allowed under the program, it will not be enough to solve the scale of the problem that has now developed in our supply chains,” she said. declared. “This announcement is equivalent to throwing a dice of water on a bonfire.”


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