The British Poultry Industry has warned of the ‘devastating impact’ that a no-deal Brexit might have if easy access to European labour is constrained.
Meat processors are highly dependent on European labour, with almost 60% of the workforce being EU nationals.
The BPC says that the economic consequence of a massive loss of workers would see the price of food rising by 25%.
And that its members, which account for nearly 90% of poultrymeat produced in the UK, are already finding it difficult to fill vacancies.
The sector has invested in attracting UK labour, it says, but rebalancing the workforce would take several years, if at all possible.
Richard Griffiths, chief executive of the BPC, said: “Government must ensure that British food, and the quality it represents, stays affordable and available for all.
“If we cannot support our own production, then there will emerge a two-tier food system with the average citizen forced to rely on lower standard imports.”
“We need the Government to devise a food strategy that enables EU nationals to fill vacancies in our sector that cannot be filled with UK workers; and that recognises the importance of food and the challenges it faces in being an essential yet perishable product.”