The poultry industry will be among the hardest hit sectors by the Migration Advisory Committee’s recommendations, according to the British Poultry Council.
The MAC’s report ‘A Points-Based System and Salary Thresholds for Immigration’, which was published 28 January, recommends limiting immigration to only those earning above £25,600. “We think salary thresholds are important to prevent undercutting in the resident labour market, to make it more likely that migrants contribute to the public finances and to support the ambition to make the UK a high-wage, high-skill, high productivity economy,” the report states.
However, the BPC, which represents all leading UK poultry processors, said the MAC had failed to heed concerns about the desperate need for labour within the poultry sector.
Chief executive Richard Griffiths said: “We value all of our workforce, wherever they come from, but the MAC report fails to respond to the current need for labour in the poultry industry post-Brexit. Poultry is half the meat the country eats. Our sector has grown significantly, beyond the UK labour availability in the areas we operate, and 60% of our workforce (22,800 people) are EU nationals who ensure safe, nutritious and affordable food is available for all.
“If the MAC’s intention is to base its recommendations on what it sees as ‘being in the best interest of the resident population’ then they have failed miserably. With the UK leaving the European Union, it is more important than ever for the Government to recognise the needs of the poultry meat industry and enable the sector to continue feeding the nation their favourite meat. We cannot run the risk of creating a two-tier food system where we import food produced to lower standards and only the affluent can afford quality British produce.
“If Government wants to shape our future immigration policy in a way that improves people’s lives, then it must ensure that British food remains affordable and accessible for all. We are calling on the Government to protect the necessary access to non-UK labour that poultry producers need to be able to fill the 7,200 vacancies within the industry every year. This will enable our sector to continue to flourish and feed the nation with food produced to the high standards it demands.
“Losing control of how we feed ourselves as a nation would undermine British food producers at a time when we should be looking to use Brexit as an opportunity to take matters of nutrition, productivity, and sustainability into our own hands and make a step change for the benefit future generations.”