Supermarkets will be short of home-produced fresh turkeys this Christmas with stores turning to imports from France and Poland, MPs have been told.
Industry leaders say it is evidence of a wider crisis across the food supply chain caused by a chronic lack of workers.
UK farmers decided to raise fewer chicks this year because they could see there would not be enough staff in processing plants to handle them.
In evidence to an inquiry by MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, chairman of the British Poultry Council, Graeme Dear, said there was a ‘likelihood’ there will be a shortage of UK turkeys for Christmas.
Around 20 per cent fewer birds have been reared this year on British farms.
Industry leaders have said there is a 'likelihood' there will be a shortage of UK turkeys for Christmas this year
The Government recently announced it would allow in 5,500 poultry plant workers on short-term visas, however this came too late to boost the number of turkeys being raised.
Mr Dear said: ‘The irony is we may find ourselves having to import turkey from France and Poland for a British Christmas, probably with some of the very workers we trained and left to go back to their homelands.’
Industry leaders said a combination of Brexit and strict immigration controls, plus coronavirus, where many foreign workers chose to go home, have triggered the crisis.
Tom Bradshaw, of the National Farmers’ Union, said the organisation has been involved in constant battles with the Home Office over the need to allow in more foreign workers.
A seasonal workers scheme allows in some 30,000 foreign workers to help bring in the UK harvest, however the NFU says this needs to be raised to 50,000-60,000.
Mr Bradshaw said: ‘The food waste we are seeing at a farm level…is completely inexcusable.’