The British Poultry Council has expressed shock after the publication of a report by the Migration Advisory Committee, which has almost completely ignored the food sector.
The report focusses on several areas, including high-skilled migrants, and recommends limits on people in this category should be scrapped.
The report, which was commissioned by the government ahead of Brexit, suggests EU workers should be subject to the same visa rules as other migrants, but it notes the UK might offer them special status under a Brexit deal.
The government has said it will “carefully consider” the committee’s proposals.
The BPC said it was “extremely shocked in the disregard shown in the report to food and farming as a whole, the majority of which would have emphasised the importance of non-UK workers in responses to the original consultation.
“Whilst there is a section on the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) and references to approach to EEA migration in Northern Ireland causing difficulties for the agri-food sector, it is disappointing that there is a lack of references to the impact of EEA migration on the need for permanent workers in the agri-food industries.
“The poultry industry requires more than seasonal workers to provide fresh poultry meat that is available and affordable for everyone. In order to sustain the 37,000 jobs directly employed by the sector it is vital that the UK secures access to high-quality labour by introducing a flexible visa system. Given that 60% of the poultry sector’s workforce is from Europe, and that Brexit could drive up the costs of labour by 50%, maintaining free-flowing access to migrant labour is crucial to the competitiveness and sustainability of the industry. For the poultry industry to thrive, we would like to see a post-Brexit visa system that allows migrant labour to enter the UK to do jobs that British labour does not presently have the capacity or inclination to take on.”