The number of temporary poultry workers permitted to travel to and work in the UK will be increased in time for Christmas, the government announced over the weekend. Up to 5,500 poultry workers will be able to work in the UK ahead of Christmas, delivered through the Temporary Workers route.
This comes as the Department for Transport announced that up to 5,000 drivers will be able to come to the UK to transport food and fuel in the run-up to Christmas. The government hopes that this will ensure farmers and food producers have access to the necessary workforce to mitigate any potential risks to the supply chain.
Recruitment for short-term HGV drivers and poultry workers will begin in October and this route will be valid until the 24th December 2021. UK Visas and Immigration, working with the Department of Transport and Department for Food and Rural Affairs will process applications in a timely manner.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “It is a top priority to ensure that there are enough workers across the country’s supply chains to make sure they remain strong and resilient. We have listened to concerns from the sector and we are acting to alleviate what is a very tight labour market.”
The Food and Drink Federation’s chief executive, Ian Wright CBE, said: “We welcome the Government’s pragmatic decision to temporarily add HGV drivers and poultry workers to the existing visa scheme.
“This is something UK food and drink manufacturers have asked for over the last few months – including in industry’s Grant Thornton report – to alleviate some of the pressure labour shortages have placed on the food supply chain. This is a start but we need the Government to continue to collaborate with industry and seek additional long term solutions.”
British Poultry Council chief executive Richard Griffiths said: “The Government’s move to allow temporary workers for the poultry meat sector will be welcomed by seasonal producers.
“Temporary workers from outside the UK have long been vital to delivering Christmas for our sector and given the unprecedented challenges of the last year they are needed more than ever. British turkey and goose are the centrepieces of Christmas dinners across the country and we are pleased that Government has listened.”
Seasonal labour has played an important role to address the challenges that the agri-food industry has faced due to the Covid-19 pandemic and labour shortages, and Defra continues to work with the industry. This includes making the agri-food sectors, including poultry, more attractive to UK domestic workers through training, career options and wage increases.