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Could a turkey shortage ruin Christmas?

Christmas past
Concerns have been raised supply chain issues could make it impossible to get turkeys to Christmas dinner tables. Photo: Shutterstock/Alexander Raths

Warnings have been issued a turkey shortage could hit Christmas dinner tables across the country this year.

Farmers have cut back production by up to 20% amid concerns about staffing issues in the supply chain.

It is feared a lack of workers in farming and processing could make it impossible to get birds to the table.

The warning comes in the week Nando’s closed about 50 UK stores because it could not get hold of enough chicken.

Will I still get turkey at Christmas?

British-reared turkey are the most popular at Christmas with nearly nine million being served up on tables across the country.

Producers regularly have the annual headache of preparing as many birds as possible to meet demand.

However, this year they are faced with the reverse dilemma of scaling back production to a point where they are confident they can get the meat to the buyer.

The British Poultry Council has said it would be “irresponsible” to prepare more birds than can be sold.

The British Poultry Council says it would be “irresponsible” to slaughter turkeys that will not be sold. Photo: PA

Chief executive Richard Griffiths told BBC Radio Scotland: “Across the country in the supply chain we are seeing the effect of labour shortages in the supply chain – from our farms and processing right through to logistics and hospitality.

“These shortages are one of the effects of Brexit and this slowing down means people are having to make some hard choices about cutting back production.

“When you look at Christmas that’s what producers are doing, if they have not got the people to process turkeys then they are not going to grow them.

“What that means is that we are looking at more imports from, ironically, EU countries.”

Will staff shortage be resolved in time?

The British Poultry Council has written to Home Secretary Priti Patel to highlight the issues the sector is facing.

They want a relaxation of rules on seasonal workers entering the UK to reduce the effect of a possible Christmas turkey shortage.

Some families may be forced to consider alternative Christmas dinner options. Photo: Shutterstock

Meanwhile, Mr Griffiths also wants employment in the food sector to be part of a skills and development programme to encourage more UK-based workers into the industry.

He warned Brexit had already caused some workers to leave the country due to them feeling “not welcome” or due to other factors of leaving the EU – adding Ms Patel was yet to reply to his letter.

However, while efforts continue to resolve issues in the supply chain, producers are already making decision about how many birds they can get to this year’s festive market.

Concerns about poultry supplies across the UK have surfaced periodically in recent years with KFC reported to be currently facing similar supply problems to Nando’s.

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