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Pig and poultry industries issue Brexit labour warning to Government

1st Dec 2016 / By Alistair Driver

The NPA has joined forces with poultry industry organisations to warn the Government of the huge potential impact on the industries of restricting access to migrant labour after we leave the EU.

ListerIn a joint letter to Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill, NPA chairman Richard Lister and his counterparts at the British Poultry Council and British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) warned: 

"Our ability to produce food for the nation will be undermined by a lack of access to EU labour, as the fallout from the EU Referendum casts uncertainty over the future of current arrangements."

The Prime Minister has stated clearly that controlling immigration will be a priority for the Government during the Brexit negotiations.

The pig and poultry leaders said they were concerned that restrictions on the free movement of workers into the UK from the EU will prevent vital access to labour required by our industries. 

Massive and urgent challenge

The letter stated: "The employment of sufficient numbers of suitable staff is a massive and urgent challenge faced by pig and poultry producers.

"From the perspective of British workers, farming is not perceived to be a desirable career although we are endeavouring to change this through various training schemes. A lack of employees will ultimately reduce farm productivity and British food production, compromising affordability for the consumer. 

"This also impacts our ability to increase exports - a government priority."

The letter stressed that the sectors operate all-year-round. It added: "The UK is already less attractive to overseas workers, due to the fall in the value of the pound. 

"Some of the major UK meat processors have reported concerns about their ability to attract sufficient staff numbers for the busy Christmas period; and this seasonal concern will be reflected and magnified for year-round producers. 

"Any schemes established to ensure the future supply of migrant labour must also facilitate full-time workers to live in the UK, rather than simply focus on short-term seasonal work, as previous schemes have.

Low skilled also a priority 

"Government must ensure that Europeans wanting to work in the UK are not deterred from doing so. Our sectors have a long success of training and up-skilling their workers, so it is also important that so-called ‘low skilled workers’, ie those not educated to degree level, are valued as much as academics and professionals. 

The letter highlighted key findings from a recent NPA survey on EU labour, which included: 

  • One in five farms and businesses connected to the pig industry would struggle to survive without migrant labour
  • 58 per cent of businesses employed at least one migrant worker, with 9 per cent employing between 11 and 50 and 2 per cent more than 50.

In addition, figures from egg industry show:

  • Over 55 per cent of staff on farms and in egg packing centres are EU migrants
  • 50 per cent of staff in egg packing centres are EU migrants.

Industry coalition highlights labour and Single Market access importance

At the same time,  the largest coalition of food producers in the UK’s history has come together for the first time to call for tariff-free access to the Single Market and continued access to a competent and reliable workforce post-Brexit.

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