Poultry producers claim that post-Brexit UK immigration rules are responsible for a country-wide chicken shortage. According to official figures, post-Brexit UK visa rules have caused the number of processing workers to drop by 60% - estimated to be around 40,000 workers. Staff shortages have meant restaurants such as KFC and Nando’s are going without supplies.
New post-Brexit UK visa rules, introduced on 1 January 2021, prioritise highly skilled workers from the European Union, with so-called ‘low-skilled’ immigrants effectively denied access to live and work in the UK.
KFC and Nando’s have spoken out against the chicken shortages, complaining that they have had to shut down stores because already compressed menus were suffering from ‘meat scarcity’. Meanwhile, the Two Sisters Food Group – Britain’s largest chicken producer – said there is a ‘chronic insufficiency’ among staff to process meat in production units.
Already faced with the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, post-Brexit UK immigration rules have plunged many food joints and chicken producers into ‘irrevocable food shortages’, industry bosses have warned.
Industry bosses say that the poultry industry is ‘vulnerable’ amid a shortage of lorry drivers and production line workers, roles which have historically relied on European workers. The British Poultry Council has repeatedly raised concerns with the government over the chicken crisis.
In a letter sent to Home Secretary, Priti Patel, the council sought an alternative to the ongoing bottleneck. The letter said: “We are facing a serious shortage of production operatives and processing staff that are classified as low-skilled workers in Home Office terms but play an incredibly important role in keeping food supply moving and feeding the nation.”
Cut down in production
The letter mentioned a 10% cut down in production amid a shortage of workers, and added an anticipated loss in turkey rearing for the upcoming Christmas season. Meanwhile, the council warned that there was a real risk of irrevocable food shortages and food price inflation down the line.
The UK’s major food producers are increasingly concerned about long-term shortages and the future impact of post-Brexit UK immigration rules. Two Sisters and supermarket giant Tesco have described the situation as a ‘critical issue’, and both are worried that there is currently no solution.
Chicken supply chain, Avara Foods, also waded into the debate saying that something needs to be done as the situation is only going to get worse. Amid the chicken supply shortage, the South African fast food joint said that it was forced to shut down 45 of 450 outlets in the UK.
KFC, Nando’s and other fast food outlets have been forced to reduce their menus amid demand and supply disruption. However, this has only presented further problems, with several food chains complaining of irregularities in deliveries. Many chains have spoken about coming up with a contingency plan to help them cope with the shortages.
Calls to change post-Brexit UK immigration rules
Several business groups, including the Confederation of British Industry, along with UK immigration advocacy groups have urged the government to change post-Brexit immigration rules to enable companies facing shortages to recruit from overseas.
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