The owner of Bernard Matthews, Ranjit Singh Boparan, has said the temporary EU poultry visa scheme has allowed the company to recruit 900 workers to cover the peak Christmas turkey season.
In September, it was announced 5,500 poultry workers from the EU would be able to work in the UK ahead of Christmas. There were concerns that new post-Brexit immigration rules combined with the impact of the pandemic had led to a record number of food manufacturing workers returning to their home countries, leaving poultry processing plants with huge labour shortages.
Boparan said the visa scheme had allowed the business to plug gaps and ensure all orders would be fulfilled.
“With just a few weeks to go until Christmas, it is very good news to be able to report that here we are in mid-November, and we’re well on the way to plugging the job gaps for the massive volume increases we get during this time of year.
“Our teams have been working incredibly hard to process almost 900 applications for the seasonal worker scheme and we’ll be seeing the first arrivals at our factories in the coming days. This means we should be able to fulfil all our projected orders for turkeys and there will be enough turkeys to go around. Everyone should be able to source their Christmas turkey this year, which is great news.
Boparan, the founder and president of 2 Sisters Food Group, said the workers, who are coming from countries such as Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Romania and Bulgaria, will provide the much needed labour capacity uplift when production increases by up to 400% in the run up to Christmas.
“We can sometimes be quick to criticise and challenge the Government, as I have done myself on several occasions, but we also need to say thank you when we think they’ve got it right and they deliver. The bottom line is that this has helped us save Christmas, not only for us, but all producers in this sector, and of course for the consumer.
“I am hopeful similar arrangements could be made for next year, and with an earlier visa process start date, this could make it even more successful. Labour as a key structural challenge for our sector is here for 12 months of the year, and it’s one that’s not going to go away.
“We simply don’t want to see our industry shrinking when the demand is as big as ever, especially at Christmas. It would be silly to plug any gaps by using imports, for instance. We don’t think the British consumer wants to see that, so hopefully the same temporary arrangements can also be made for 2022.”