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Food industry supply chain chaos result of Brexit, British poultry association says

Written by on 18/08/2021

The boss of Britain’s poultry industry body has called on the government to fast track workers as the sector faces severe disruptions that have forced restaurants including Nando’s and KFC to adjust or cancel their service.

Richard Griffiths, chief executive of the British Poultry Council, also blamed worker shortages following Brexit for the issues the industry is currently facing.

Sky News understands that the group has contacted the Home Office about the issue, but has yet to receive a response.

A photo taken on August 27, 2013 shows hens at an intensive poultry farm in the western French town of Louannec. French poultry farmers have been hit by rising feed prices and a new European Union directive that has forced them to invest in bigger pens for their laying hens. According to the UGPVB, a union which accounts for 40 percent of French egg production, production costs in France are now running at 95 cents per kilogram of eggs, 20 cents more than current wholesale prices. AFP PHOTO / FR
Image: A spokesperson for one of Britain’s biggest poultry producers said that the company was not experiencing any inconvenience due to the so-called ‘pingdemic’

“When you don’t have people, you have a problem – and this is something we are seeing across the whole supply chain. The labour crisis is a Brexit issue,” Mr Griffiths said.

The problems had been widely reported across multiple sectors, he added.

The poultry industry is responsible for producing half of all the meat eaten in the UK. Currently, the sector is reporting vacancies of over 16%, Mr Griffiths said.

“The alarming number of gaps only continue to grow due to a government that continually acts against the best interests of British food producers,” he said.

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Limiting the number of people from outside of the UK who are allowed to work in the country, while repeatedly referring to workers in the industry as low-skilled, had “jeopardised food businesses and made access to quality British food harder for people in this country.”

Mr Griffiths said that the British Poultry Council had called on the government to include poultry meat supply chain workers on the skilled worker list and shortage occupation list, while reducing unnecessary thresholds on salaries and skills, in order to solve the labour shortage.

Animal welfare groups allege chickens at some intensive farms are bred to grow at unnatural speeds. Pic: Open Cages
Image: The poultry industry is responsible for producing half of all the meat eaten in the UK

Separately, one of Britain’s largest poultry producers dismissed claims that the industry crisis was caused by workers being told to self-isolate after receiving a notification from the NHS Test & Trace app.

A spokesperson for Avara Foods said that the company was not experiencing any significant inconvenience due to the so-called ‘pingdemic’.

“Our concern is recruitment and filling vacancies when the UK workforce has been severely depleted as a result of Brexit; this is causing stress on UK supply chains in multiple sectors,” the spokesperson said.

The company added that while worker shortages due to the pandemic would be temporary, issues arising out of changes following the UK’s departure from the EU would last a lot longer.

A bag of KFC chicken in London. The new storage hub at the centre of KFC's chicken delivery problems has not yet been granted the registration it legally requires to operate, the local council has confirmed.
Image: KFC warned that some items would not be available and packaging “may look a bit different to normal”

“We’re monitoring the situation closely and are putting in place measures to mitigate the strain on our supply chain, but this can only go so far,” they said.

Nando’s says it plans to have all its restaurants open again from Saturday after supply chain disruption forced 45 sites to close.

The peri-peri chicken brand, which operates about 400 outlets across the country, has also “hit pause on delivery for now” according to a message on its website.

The closures come after rival KFC revealed last week that it was facing similar problems, warning that some items would not be available and packaging “may look a bit different to normal”.

 Sky News

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