This year's Christmas dinner may end up to be not so joyous as the traditional feast is under threat of running low on turkey supply. The British Poultry Council (BPC) said the problem is due to a shortage of skilled workers that process the meat. The council is urging the government to exempt the workers from quarantine rules to ensure retail markets are fully stocked for the holiday season.
About 1.000 EU workers are required to keep turkey stock supplies from running aground. According to the BBC, the proposed exemption would cover seasonal workers coming from Poland, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia at the end of October 2020.
But with the crippling pandemic, workers will not come to Britain if they have to undergo a 14-day quarantine before starting work. The type of skilled people needed in turkey processing are not available among UK workers.
A spokeswoman for the government said, "We recognise and appreciate our dedicated farmers who continue to work tirelessly during this challenging time to keep our nation fed. We are working with industry to assess needs and ensure a steady supply of British turkeys as we approach Christmas."
Meanwhile, BPC head Richard Griffiths expressed his concerns. "The great British Christmas cannot survive without access to non-UK labour."
"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."
Griffiths also points out that there is a deficiency of UK workers with the right training and qualifications required to slaughter and process about nine million turkeys that have been reared for the Christmas season.
These workers have been specifically trained for this job in Watok - Welfare of Animals at Time of Killing. They are licensed to slaughter animals which means they all hold certificates of competence issued by the Food Standards Agency. It takes at least 12 weeks to attain basic slaughter and knife skills.
"It will be unfeasible to train and up-skill UK workers within the short window available," Griffiths said.
"That will pose a risk to affordability and potentially force people to go without food this Christmas," he added.
Griffiths warned that if seasonal vacancies do not get filled up, this will cause a significant impact on the production, supply and cost of food during the holidays.