To help poultry producers take advantage of the UK government’s Temporary Visa Scheme for workers, 4 approved labour providers have been established.
This follows the UK government’s announcement in September that temporary visas were being made available for peak Christmas trading for poultry and food sector HGV drivers to ease supply chain pressures.
The government has made it clear that the scheme, which follows chaos in the sector due to a combination of Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic, and more recently the CO2 crisis, will be one-off, time-limited and specific. It wants poultry businesses to consider other medium to long-term solutions, including how to make roles more attractive to domestic workers in the future.
There are 5,500 temporary visas being made available to the sector with the visas valid for any occupation, in both on-farm and off-farm working environments. The 4 labour providers are all operators of the Seasonal Workers Scheme, which is currently running in the horticulture sector in the UK. They are Concordia, Pro-Force, AG Recruitment and Fruitful Jobs. The deadline for submitting visa applications is 15 November.
Tom Bradshaw, National Farmers Union (NFU) vice-president, welcomed the support but said more needed to be done, including the introduction of a 12-month Covid Recovery Visa to alleviate shortages. “We will continue to work with government to find solutions for the wider labour needs, including trained and able butchers for pork production to deal with the increasingly serious build-up of pigs on farm and the risk of welfare issues.”
Richard Griffiths, British Poultry Council chief executive, said the move was a positive step but argued the intervention was too late. “Supply chains are not something that can be simply switched on and off, so plans for production are already well underway and the necessary cut backs due to ongoing labour shortages have already been made.”