Turkey shortage caused by Brexit and Covid could ruin Christmas

Amid mounting labour shortages in the food industry, Mark Gorton, of Traditional Norfolk Poultry, is

Amid mounting labour shortages in the food industry, East Anglian farmer Mark Gorton is concerned about recruiting enough workers for the firm's Christmas rush - Credit: TNP

Christmas dinner options this year could be ruined by a turkey shortage - with a poultry crisis said to be "getting worse by the day".

Nandos and KFC stores have been already been forced to shut their doors this week over a lack of chicken.

And there now fears if the government does not act fast, supermarket shelves could be barren of birds this December.

Mark Gorton, an East Anglian farmer and member of the National Poultry Board, said problems began as a result of Brexit, with people in his workforce leaving the country.

Mr Gorton said: "Even if one person a week leaves my business, that's 20 by Christmas and by November I need to hire around 400 to 500 people more.

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"Demand has increased this year because people are willing to pay a bit more for high-quality meat.

"We're also expecting people to go a bit bigger this Christmas, because they couldn't last year..

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"The government needs to act now. Last year, they stepped in with a scheme in November but it needs to happen before then - there's too much planning that goes into it."

A senior poultry industry source told the PA news agency that warnings last month that EU worker rules and logistics issues would continue to hit food supply had not been heeded.

“We raised this issue with government many weeks ago and nothing significant has happened since, so it is clearly not going away,” he said.

“We need new workers to come on board to cope with this demand and, while Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) have been helpful, the issue is with the Home Office.

“There are shortages fluctuating between 10% and 20% of staff, so we need some emergency changes get workers overseas who can fill this gap.”

Alastair Angus, owner of Thurston Butchers, said he could largely foresee problems at the supermarkets.

Alastair Angus, owner of Thurston Butchers, was the victim of a Facebook scam.

Alastair Angus, owner of Thurston Butchers - Credit: ARCHIE GINGELL/THURSTON BUTCHERS

"From our perspective, industrialised farming is certainly a concern," he said.

"Fortunately, with a lot of butchers, if they're using smaller local producers then they should be less affected.

"We haven't noticed too much of a problem. However, there do seem to have been a few small price increases but we've only had to put a few things up.

"From my experience, and talking with other butchers and local wholesalers, the issue of seems to be more with foreign imports.

"And that's largely down to Covid — the pingdemic in these larger factories and processing plants — and to Brexit as well.

"That's had a huge knock-on effect for larger operators like supermarkets.

"But in terms of smaller butchers, if they're buying local and high-quality, stuff they should be relatively unaffected."

Mr Angus added the people may need to order meat in advance for Christmas if they want to buy their meat from a butcher.

The turkey may not be the only element of Christmas dinner under threat, according to Fergus Fitzgerald, Adnams' head of production.

Fergus Fitzgerald, Adnams head brewer, said the brewery's low-alcohol products had become more popul

Fergus Fitzgerald, Adnams head brewer - Credit: Adnams

Importing wine from across the globe has also been a challenge this year, he said.

"There are a combination of issues that are making it difficult at the moment," he said.

"There is a huge pressure on haulage in the UK, but you have all the issues getting stuff into the UK in the first place.

"There's a long backlog from wineries running bottling lines for long periods over the last year or so, and now they're trying to catch up and refill the supply chain.

"Bringing things in from Europe just takes longer and is more expensive because of Covid and the way that Brexit has evolved.

"The haulage prices we've been quoted are maybe three times what they would have been before. Some of the costs will hopefully be temporary, but we obviously don't know that at the moment."

Mr Fitzgerald said that bad weather had led to poor harvests in some wine-producing regions, such as the Marlborough district of New Zealand.

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