Xmas dinners under threat as workers returning to EU could hit supply
Poultry producers blame Brexit for turkey shortage: Christmas dinners are under threat as industry says lack of staff due to workers returning to EU could hit supply over festive season
- App customers in Kent could not order the meals, with a message: ‘Unavailable’
- It comes as one of its Hull stores appeared to have posted message in its window
- The notice asked for their visitors to ‘be kind to staff’ because ‘it’s not their fault’
- There are also fears the shortage could ruin Christmas, with hit to turkey supply
British poultry producers have warned that lack of staff due to Brexit could hit the supply of turkeys and see serious shortages this Christmas.
The British Poultry Council said its members, which include England’s largest supplier of supermarket chicken, 2 Sisters Food Group, and KellyBronze Turkeys, said one in six jobs were unfilled due to workers returning to the EU after Brexit.
The shortages might mean the supply of turkey could decline by as much as 20 per cent at Christmas, as many fear they will not be able to employ enough seasonal workers, The Guardian reported.
The supply issues have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, as earlier this week a shortage of chicken led to a shortened menu at KFC and closures of some Nando’s restaurants.
The British Poultry Council (BPC) previously said it had seen production slashed by up to 10 per cent among its members due to issues at farms and processing plants.
Poultry shortages may mean supply of turkey could decline by as much as 20% at Christmas, as firms fear they will not be able to employ enough seasonal workers (stock image)
The council’s chief executive, Richard Griffiths, said the group had written to Home Secretary Priti Patel to ask the Government to relax immigration rules, but had not received a response.
In an interview with the BBC, Griffiths said: ‘Our members are reporting up to 16 per cent vacancies at the moment as a direct result of the limiting of immigration policies.’
Traditional Norfolk Poultry revealed the threat Britons may have to their Christmases as turkey numbers dwindle.
Managing Director Mark Gorton told ITV: ‘The big problem we’ve got at the moment is labour, we simply cannot find people to run our farms and run our factory, this is hugely serious, we are committed to growing these chickens to supply our customers and of course once the birds are on the ground they’re growing.. they have to be processed through the factory, so to be short of people to help us do that has had a major impact.’
Meanwhile, Paul Kelly, from Kelly Bronze Turkeys near Chelmsford, said: ‘There will be a massive shortage because companies cannot risk hatching turkeys and pushing them on the farm if they can’t get the workers to do the job.
‘It would be financial suicide. Turkey after Christmas Day is worth nothing.’
He also told ITV: ‘We’re okay as a small family business, we only need a relatively small number of people but the bigger guys that need thousands of people to come and make sure the turkeys get delivered, they’re not taking the risk because they’re not getting any support from the government in terms of ‘you will be allowed to bring your usual workforce in from Europe’.
‘That’s not happening at this point in time so they’re not taking the risk to put the turkeys on the farm, because if they can’t get them processed at Christmas, they can’t risk putting them on the farm.’
Traditional Norfolk Poultry revealed the threat Britons may have to their Christmases as turkey numbers dwindle (stock image)
The poultry industry employs more than 40,000 people but there are currently nearly 7,000 vacancies, while shortages mean some chicken producers have cut weekly output by up to 10 per cent, according to the BPC.
Ranjit Singh Boparan, the billionaire founder of 2 Sisters, recently said the ‘pingdemic’ had masked an industry already at crisis point due to Brexit labour shortages.
The company said 15 per cent of jobs within its 16,000 workforce were unfilled, with entry level jobs proving the hardest to fill.
The heightening crisis comes after several Nando’s restaurants closed and KFC ran out of Zinger and Tower burgers.
Frustrated customers using the KFC app in Kent could not order the meals on Thursday, with a message simply reading: ‘Unavailable.’
It comes as one of its outlets in Hull appeared to have posted a message in its window explaining it was low on stock.
The notice, topped with an image of Colonel Sanders, asked for visitors to ‘be kind to staff’ because ‘it’s not their fault’.
Traditional Norfolk Poultry revealed they ‘simply cannot find people to run our farms and run our factory’, branding it ‘hugely serious’.
Earlier experts warned pubs will start running out of chicken because of staff shortages at suppliers and the ‘pingdemic’.
Insiders called on the government to make urgent changes to the rules on overseas workers to plug the gap.
Consumers were also being warned there could be empty shelves in shops after a union said HGV drivers would go on strike over a pay discrepancy.
Frustrated customers using the app in Kent could not order the meals, with a message simply reading: ‘Unavailable’ (pictured)
It comes as one of its outlets in Hull appeared to have posted a message in its window explaining it was low on stock (pictured)
Up to 1,500 small stores across London and the South East could face delivery shortages after Tesco handed some drivers a £5 pay rise, but less for others.
This week, Nando’s revealed it had been forced to shut almost 75 restaurants due to a lack of chicken.
It blamed the closures on the national shortage of HGV drivers, a staffing crisis and the impact of the ‘pingdemic’ – but sent 70 staff to help suppliers.
A message in the KFC store in Hull said: ‘If you planned to order one of everything you might be out of luck.
‘Some recent disruption means we might not have your favourite on the menu today. But rest assured we still have plenty of Finger Lickin’ Good options available.
‘In the meantime, thanks for bearing with us, and please be kind to our team. It’s not their fault.’
Experts earlier raised fears chicken could also be slashed at pubs as well as restaurants.
A source told the Sun the industry was seeing shortages of 10 to 20 per cent and called on the government to change the rules on overseas workers to help.
Lynx Purchasing – which workers with 60 suppliers – said the issue would soon spread from eateries to boozers.
Boss Rachel Dobson said: ‘A fast food brand dependent on a specific product such as chicken sees the impact more quickly — but most pubs and restaurants have chicken dishes on the menu.’
A sign on the doors of a branch of Nando’s in White City, Manchester, telling customers that the store is temporarily closed
Young’s pubs and Wetherspoon said it had not experienced any chicken shortages yet.
But supplier Avara Foods said it was concerned about getting products to sites due to filling jobs after Brexit.
A spokesman said: ‘Our concern is recruitment and filling vacancies when the UK workforce has been severely depleted as a result of Brexit; this is causing stress on UK supply chains in multiple sectors.
‘Labour availability is an issue totally separate to the pandemic, and one which has the potential to affect UK foods manufacturing for a lot longer – a similar story can be seen in the hospitality industry where vacancies are outstripping the available workforce.
‘We’re monitoring the situation closely and are putting in place measures to mitigate the strain on our supply chain, but this can only go so far.
‘It looks increasingly like this is a structural change in the UK labour market, which shows no obvious signs of being resolved quickly.’
Meanwhile consumers are being warned there could be empty shelves in convenience stores after a union said HGV drivers would go on strike over a pay row.
Up to 1,500 small shops across London and the south east could face delivery shortages after Tesco handed some lorry drivers a £5 pay rise, but not others.
Unite the Union said yesterday bosses from the supermarket’s wholesale division Booker were ‘missing in action’ after failing to engage in talks.
As many as 1,500 convenience stores across London and the south east could face delivery shortages over pay disparities caused by HGV bonuses handed out by Tesco (file photo)
Consumers have already faced barren supermarket shelves while shopping in major UK retailers, but could see more in London and the South east if the industrial action goes ahead
Drivers will now be balloted on whether to take strike action unless bosses match bonuses paid to drivers in other parts of the country.
Tesco implemented a £5-an-hour pay rise for drivers at its Booker Wholesale depot in Hemel Hempstead but refused to pay a similar increase to HGV drivers at its Thamesmead site, Unite said.
Booker drivers deliver products under the Budgens and Londis brands, with a fallout expected to hit those 1,500 convenience stores in the south east region hardest.
Unite accused the company of ‘burying its head in the sand’ as the HGV driver shortage across the country escalates due to an ageing workforce who are retiring.
The so-called ‘pingdemic’, a backlog of HGV driving tests and driver shortages as EU drivers returned home are all impacting the delivery sector.
The Road Haulage Association warned in July there was a shortage of 100,000 lorry drivers in the UK, which has been hampering deliveries from warehouses to shops.
Thousands of prospective drivers are waiting for their HGV tests due to a backlog caused by lockdown, while many existing ones have left the UK after Brexit.
Booker drivers deliver products under the Budgens and Londis brands, with any fallout expected to hit those 1,500 convenience stores in the south east region hardest
Some 2,000 HGV drivers from the Royal Logistic Corps and other corps are reported to be on a five-day notice to help distribute food and other essential supplies, including medicine (Pictured: Army delivering medicine supplies in March last year)
The problem has been exacerbated by Covid, with drivers having to go into self-isolation amid the so-called ‘pingdemic’.
That led to major supermarket retailers including Tesco, M&S and Aldi to all offer pay rises or bonuses to drivers in the hope of filling gaps in supply and on shelves.
Unite regional officer Paul Travers said: ‘Despite the company indicating that it wanted to get pay talks started early to address the issue, the top managers have gone ”missing in action”.
‘We understand the general manager is on holiday and another senior manager has just disappeared from the scene.
‘At a time when country faces the worst HGV driver shortage in modern times with an estimated 100,000 vacancies in the industry, it is the height of irresponsibility that there is no executive for Unite to negotiate with, it is worthy of a Fawlty Towers episode.
‘Our Thamesmead members are outraged at the disrespect the management and the company as a whole have shown them, they are very angry as they ballot for industrial action.
‘We are gaining new members from other employees disgusted at the company’s contemptuous attitude.’
It comes after the Road Haulage Association warned in late July that there was a shortage of 100,000 lorry drivers in the UK, which has been hampering deliveries of food from warehouses to supermarkets (file photo)
Food supply chains have been placed under intense stress because of a shortage of around 100,000 HGV drivers.
Consumers have already been warned to expect to see empty shelves in supermarket aisles, and supply chain issues have already crippled fast food outlets KFC and Nando’s.
According to their website, almost 75 Nando’s venues were forced to close this week as a result of the supply chain issues.
The firm told customers online its shortages were caused by staff ‘isolation periods’ and suppliers ‘struggling to keep up with demand’.
It was just days after KFC bosses issued a nationwide supply warning after blaming ‘disruption’ for causing a lack of availability for some of its menu items.
Other retailers also warned they are facing ‘increased pressure’ to keep shelves fully stocked during a national shortage of approximately 100,000 HGV drivers.
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