Speaking to Food Manufacture in this exclusive interview, Sullivan reassured the industry that the impact would be very minimal and was likely only going to impact a small number of businesses.
“I want to emphasise to the industry that this is not going to have a major impact on food supply at Christmas – the story is not ‘there are going to be huge shortages’, the story is that there may be a number of sporadic interruptions, which means we have to work with individual businesses to negotiate when we might be able to provide a vet,” he explained.
“We wished to alert you and the industry to the possibility of a number of sporadic service interruptions that might occur – it won’t have an impact on food supply, but it might impact certain food businesses.”
The Government announced it would be opening up the UK to temporary workers from the EU in response to a raft of labour shortages thanks to the perfect storm of Brexit and COIVD-19. This easing of restrictions was extended to allow 800 foreign abattoir workers into the country.
‘Chicken king’ Ranjit Boparan claimed the temporary visa scheme had saved his Christmas, allowing him to recruit 900 workers from the EU over the busy festive period. Boparan, who owns East Anglian turkey giant Bernard Matthews, said the staff would work at his turkey processing centres in East Anglia.
Paul Kelly, managing director of Kelly Turkeys, said the visa scheme had been a saviour to many of the small seasonal producers that deliver Christmas for local butchers and sales from the farm gate.
“Without a visa scheme these small farmers that produce for over 1m turkeys at Christmas will shrink to levels not seen since the 1990s before freedom of movement,” he added.