The British Poultry Council is seeking an urgent exemption for non-U.K. seasonal poultry workers from COVID-19-related quarantine restrictions to ensure the Christmas turkey supply does not collapse.

The proposed exemption will cover at least 1,000 seasonal workers coming from Poland, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia at the end of October 2020.

British Poultry Council Chief Executive Richard Griffiths said: “The seasonal turkey sector is vital to delivering the Great British Christmas and it cannot survive without access to non-U.K. labor. The seasonal turkey industry needs to bring in at least 1,000 workers for the 2020 Christmas period. If these vacancies cannot be filled, it will have a significant impact on the production of, and therefore cost of food – all of which will pose a risk to affordability and potentially force people to go without food this Christmas.

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“There is a shortage of U.K.-based workers with the necessary training and qualifications to slaughter and process Christmas turkeys. Turkey producers are heavily reliant on licensed and trained EU workers with specific farming, processing, and butchery skills. These skills cannot be replaced without a lengthy training and recruitment period. The type of skills (WATOK trained, licensed etc) turkey production requires are not available among U.K. workers, particularly not among the pool of those who are currently unemployed. Also, it will be unfeasible to train and upskill U.K. workers within the short window available.

“If the sector cannot bring in trained workers from outside the U.K., then the level and quality of production will be significantly compromised. Government must ensure that British poultry meat, and the quality it represents, stays affordable and available for all. Losing control of how we feed ourselves as a nation would penalize British food producers at a time when we should be taking matters of food security into our own hands.”

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