The organisation said very few butchers were expected to arrive in time for the Christmas period.
“The number and speed of emergency visas for pork butchers being processed has been disappointing to date, with very few butchers expected to arrive in early December,” said a BMPA spokesman.
“The big question is whether many will even decide to come to the UK this close to Christmas, or whether they’ll decide to leave it until the New Year. The changing COVID landscape could also impact how many emergency butchers we’re able to recruit.”
Changing COVID landscape
In October, the Government unveiled plans to allow 800 foreign abattoir workers into the UK on temporary visas. It extended the seasonal worker scheme to pork butchers. The move was in response to the widely reported struggles in the pork industry, the pressures of COVID-19, Brexit and labour shortages.
The trade association added that the Britain’s meat processing industry has suffered deteriorating capacity and morale as a result of the chronic labour shortage. However, the BMPA said this was a two-year re-balancing exercise, not a quick fix before Christmas and, come New Year’s Day, the labour crisis would still be strangling the British food industry.
“Government doesn’t understand the current make-up of the UK labour market, which has undergone a huge structural change since Brexit and COVID began taking effect,” the spokesman added.
“The Government needs to face reality and allow more workers in to the country to take up these jobs immediately. The kind of experienced workers we need simply don’t exist in the UK right now and it will take the next two years to recruit and train British people.”
The BMPA said the Government needed to review the level of English required of migrant workers. Currently, it was equivalent to A-Level standard, which was an unnecessary barrier for those seeking a job requiring more manual skills, according to the organisation.
It also said its members were working 'flat out' to try and get as much Christmas product ready as soon as possible and the industry was prioritising Christmas staples, but companies had had to reduce the variety of products they produce to try and maintain volume.