UK food minister raises questions over turkey supplies this Christmas

Tory George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, mentioned there shall be sufficient festive food in supermarkets – however provided that labour shortages are efficiently sorted out

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Question Time: Fiona Bruce grills Eustice over Christmas

The UK Cabinet minister for food final evening raised doubts over turkey supplies this Christmas.

George Eustice mentioned labour shortages must be solved as a way to assure a plentiful provide of the chicken on grocery store cabinets.

The Environment Secretary spoke because the pig business warned animals may should be shot and dumped in skips, quite than become sausages and bacon, as a consequence of a scarcity of abattoir employees.

And the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) mentioned the business is brief about 15,000 employees, together with many butchers, as a consequence of Covid and post-Brexit visa guidelines.

A spokesperson advised The Times: “We actually ought to have been producing Christmas food from about June or July onwards this year and up to now we’ve not, so there will be shortages of occasion meals and issues like pigs in blankets.”

The UK is facing a perfect storm of staffing shortages in key supply chains, with critics blaming changes to the labour market after Covid – and Brexit, which has barred EU migrants getting so-called ‘unskilled’ work in the UK.

Millions of turkeys are slaughtered every Christmas



Mr Eustice was requested on BBC Question Time if Brits would see as a lot on the cabinets at Christmas as regular.

He replied “yes” however then certified his answer, saying it relied on getting “sufficient HGV capacity”.

Mr Eustice mentioned: “Yes – we’ve been working very closely with the supermarkets on this and although it’s undoubtedly the case that there’s a shortage of labour right through the economy at the moment, typically most businesses carrying vacancies of around 12-14%, although we’ve got these shortages, they are managing to keep their output going.

“And provided we can get sufficient HGV capacity and bring in the seasonal labour we need for sectors like turkeys, then yes, we will get the food to the supermarkets for Christmas.”

Hailing 5,000 short-term visas to sort out a truck driver scarcity, he mentioned: “The two weeks working as much as Christmas there’s usually a 50% improve in demand for contemporary produce, and contemporary meats and supermarkets will not order food that they assume could be perishable.

“And so ensuring that we have got that further driver capability for that brief time period… will make a distinction.

George Eustice gave a less-than-enthusiastic pledge that grocery store cabinets could be well-stocked


AFP through Getty Images)

“Bringing in the additional five and a half thousand seasonal workers, specifically to work on the turkey sector, again which is very condensed into about four weeks, yes, that will make a difference.”

Labour have mentioned 5,000 truck driver visas won’t almost be sufficient, and the short-term nature of the work won’t be sufficient to entice EU employees to the UK.

National Pig Association chairman Rob Mutimer feared the UK was heading into an “acute welfare disaster very quickly” with a “mass cull of animals” looming.

“The downside within the business has obtained very significantly worse over the final three weeks,” he advised the BBC.

“We are within a couple of weeks of actually having to consider a mass cull of animals in this country.”

He said pig farms of all sizes were running out of space to keep their animals, “which is a real worry coming into winter”.

Asked what a cull would involve, he warned: “It involves either shooting pigs on farm, or taking them to an abattoir, killing the animals, and actually disposing (of) them in the skip at the other end of the chain.

“So these animals won’t go into the food chain. They will either be rendered, or if not, sent for incineration. So it’s an absolute travesty.”

It came as a government minister said shortages at petrol filling stations may persist for another “week or so”.

It got here after petrol storage managers accused the federal government of “gaslighting” by claiming the issue was receding, regardless of lengthy queues nonetheless mounting outdoors.

Policing minister Kit Malthouse mentioned there was nonetheless robust demand for gasoline in some elements of the nation and that Boris Johnson must review the state of affairs if it deteriorates additional.

He advised the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “We are still seeing strong demand in parts of the country around fuel, albeit that there is no problem of supply into the country. The distribution mechanism is trying to respond to this unprecedented demand.

“My newest briefing is that the state of affairs is stabilising, that we’re seeing extra forecourts with a higher provide of gasoline and hopefully that, as demand and provide come higher into steadiness over the subsequent few days – week or so – that we’ll see a return to normality.

“I think if things started to deteriorate further, obviously the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Energy, whose responsibility this is, will have to review the situation.

“What we have to see is a stabilisation and enchancment over the subsequent few days. Obviously there solely so many tankers that can be utilized to get this gasoline round.

“They are trying their best to get around as fast as possible. There is co-ordination now across the country looking at where there are pockets of supply problems and demand strength and trying to bring the two into balance.”

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