As the prospect of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit looms, Britain’s poultry meat sector has warned of the devastating impact on the cost of food if the UK loses essential workers.
British poultry meat businesses, which rear a billion birds for food every year, are planning for a crisis scenario where non-UK labour falls by half in case of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit. British Poultry Council members are reporting a sharp decline in the availability of these crucial workers even ahead of Brexit.
British Poultry Council chief executive, Richard Griffiths, said: “The British poultry meat sector is incredibly dependent on non-UK labour. Nearly 60% of our workforce are EU nationals. Access to skilled workers is imperative for our sector to carry on feeding the nation with safe, wholesome and affordable food.
Barriers to EU nationals working in the UK would be extremely damaging to the industry. We need that workforce to maintain productivity in our sector and contribute to UK food security during a time of uncertainty.
In the case of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, our producers’ nightmare scenario is a massive loss of workforce. This will have a knock-on effect on the cost of production which will affect the price of food. The latest economic modelling predicts prices rising by around 25% in the event of a no-deal.”
The British Poultry Council is calling on the Government to recognise food as a special case that is treated as a national security issue.
“Government must ensure that British food, and the quality it represents, stays affordable and available for all. If we cannot support our own production, then there will emerge a two-tier food system with the average citizen forced to rely on lower standard imports.
We need the Government to devise a food strategy that enables EU nationals to fill vacancies in our sector that cannot be filled with UK workers; and that recognises the importance of food and the challenges it faces in being an essential yet perishable product.
British poultry meat producers are committed to carrying on delivering a sustainable, secure and trusted supply of food, produced to world-class standards. We want to work together with Government to develop a robust transition plan to ensure access to the workers we need and to avoid any disruption in the smooth movement of perishable products across the EU,” said Griffiths.