The government has stepped in to combat a growing crisis on pig farms by allowing butchers to enter Britain on temporary visas, in the latest reversal of post-Brexit immigration policy.
Butchers in slaughterhouses and meat processing plants dealing with pigs will be allowed to come to work in the UK for six months, the environment secretary, George Eustis, announced Thursday evening. He said 800 butchers are needed to meet the shortage of staff and bring the situation under control.
“This will help us deal with the backlog of pigs we currently have on the farm, give those meat processors the ability to kill more pigs, and crucially we can provide private storage support to help those slaughterhouses.” To temporarily store that meat,” Eustice said.
Intervention comes several weeks later Farmers started rearing healthy animals Due to shortage of staff in slaughterhouses where animals are processed. Thousands of pigs are reported to have died in the last one week alone.
a Backlog of 120,000 pigs It was estimated that by the time they were gone for slaughter, the pens were overcrowded and farmers were forced to call in specialist teams to dispose of the surplus animals.
The Storage Assistance Scheme allows producers to store slaughtered pigs for between three and six months, so that they can be safely preserved and processed at a later date when the supply chain is under less pressure.
The government said the package of measures designed to help pig producers would include starting processing of animals on Saturday, as well as longer working hours at processing plants.
In addition, ministers confirmed they would suspend levies on pork products for producers in England and Scotland for a month, resulting in estimated savings of £1m for the sector.
However, he rejected the government’s call to remove the requirement for butchers trained from abroad to speak fluent English.
The meat industry is one of several sectors of the UK economy reeling from labor shortages stymied by Covid-19 and Brexit, while also hampered by a shortage of HGV drivers. supply chains.
Ministers previously told farmers and processors they needed employ more British workers Instead of relying on labor from abroad.
The move is the latest government U-turn on allowing seasonal workers from abroad to staff the food production and processing sector in the UK.
Faced with growing food and fuel shortages, the government announced last month that it would grant 5,000 temporary visas to non-UK lorry drivers Although the senior minister admitted on Wednesday that So far only 20 were released. It was also promised that 5,500 more visas for seasonal poultry workers would last till December 31.
Duncan Berkshire, a pig veterinarian in Yorkshire who has been involved in discussions between the region and ministers, cautiously welcomed the announcement on the butcher.
“We are glad that the government listened to us and finally responded. It’s good to see some engagement, it’s great,” he said.
He said: “We were expecting longer. I’m concerned about how many people will want to come for just six months and if there is a limit to the number, that will only allow a small amount of the system to work and we can still farm.” But a large number of pigs will leave.”
Berkshire said they knew thousands of pigs had been slaughtered in farms over the past week, resulting in a backlog.
According to the British Meat Processors Association, non-UK workers make up two-thirds of the workforce, missing 15% of the 95,000 people typically employed in the meat-processing industry. Reports suggest that around 1,000 temporary visas may be issued.
The UK’s food and beverage industry is calling for a special year “Covid-19 Recovery Visa” Recruiting foreign workers helps reduce disruption to the food supply chain and allows for the hiring of butchers, chefs and other food industry workers.
Butchers and meat processing workers previously not involved in Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme, which issues 30,000 annual permits to non-UK citizens to work as horticultural laborers, harvest fruit and crops.