Source: Unsplash // Sheri Hooley

BPC CEO Richard Griffiths said the UK turkey sector ‘cannot survive without access to non-UK labour’

The British Poultry Council has warned this Christmas’s turkey supply could “collapse” unless the government grants an exemption from Covid-19 quarantine rules for foreign seasonal workers.

The industry body said at least 1,000 workers from countries not currently on the UK’s travel corridor list would be required for the seasonal period.

Currently, workers travelling from countries highlighted by BPC, such as Poland and the Czech Republic, would have to self-isolate for two weeks upon arrival to the UK as their rates of coronavirus are above the 20 cases per 100,000 threshold imposed by the UK government.

“The seasonal turkey sector is vital to delivering the great British Christmas and it cannot survive without access to non-UK labour,” said BPC CEO Richard Griffiths.

“If these vacancies cannot be filled, it will have a significant impact on the production of, and therefore cost of, food – all of which will pose a risk to affordability and potentially force people to go without food this Christmas.”

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Griffiths added there was a dearth of UK-based workers with the necessary training and qualifications to both slaughter and process turkeys – something that could not be rectified without “lengthy” training and recruitment processes.

In response, a Defra spokeswoman said the government was in discussions about the request with the BPC as well as the NFU and Association of Independent Meat Suppliers.

“We recognise and appreciate our dedicated farmers who continue to work tirelessly during this challenging time to keep our nation fed,” she said. “We are working with industry to assess needs and ensure a steady supply of British turkeys as we approach Christmas.”