The UK government’s crash programme of visas for foreign poultry workers risks being too little, too late to avert food shortages, an industry group said Monday.
The government’s post-Brexit immigration and trade policies “risk crippling British food security”, and longer-term solutions are needed, British Poultry Council chief executive Richard Griffiths said.
The announcement of a temporary visa scheme for 5 500 poultry workers and 5 000 lorry drivers for the three months to Christmas was “a positive step in the right direction”, he said in a statement.
“Nevertheless, there is a risk that this intervention comes too late,” Griffiths warned.
“Supply chains are not something that can be simply switched on and off, so plans for production are already well underway and the necessary cutbacks due to ongoing labour shortages have already been made.”
In part driven by the government’s restrictions on EU workers after Brexit, Britain is facing critical shortages of personnel in key sectors.
Fuel pumps have run dry as panic-buying drains tanks at petrol stations, after energy companies were unable to find enough drivers to make deliveries last week.
The government said it was not “currently” planning to draft in army reservists to drive fuel tankers.
“But as a responsible government, we are taking the preparatory steps necessary should further measures be needed,” a Downing Street spokesman said.
Trade groups are warning of Christmas shortages for turkeys and toys, and say the three-month visa programme falls well short of what is needed.
“On the short-term I think that will be a dead end,” Edwin Atema of the Dutch FNV union, which represents lorry drivers across Europe, told BBC radio.
“So more is needed, and I think the EU workers we speak to will not go to the UK for a short-term visa to help UK out of the shit they created themselves.”