Butcher shortage could ruin Christmas as supplies of pigs in blankets at risk

1 October 2021, 06:29

There are fears a butcher shortage could 'ruin Christmas'.
There are fears a butcher shortage could lead to a shortage of pigs in blankets and other Christmas meats. . Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

A shortage of butchers following the Covid pandemic and a post-Brexit Britain could impact food supplies over Christmas, it has been warned.

Christmas favourites such as pigs in blankets could be at risk as a result of the shortage of workers in the meat industry, which is expected to be in the thousands.

According to The Times, the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) said the industry is short of about 15,000 workers, which has forced its members to just focus on keeping supermarkets stocked with basic cuts of meat.

Ministers are reported to be considering easing visa restrictions for up to 1,000 foreign butchers to reduce the shortages.

A spokesman for the Department For Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it was aware of the issue.

"We understand the importance of seasonal labour and we are aware of the challenges that the pig industry has faced in recent months because of the Covid-19 pandemic and labour shortages, and Defra has been working closely with the pig and processing sectors during this time," he said.

"We are keeping the market under close review and continuing to work closely with the sector to explore options to address the pressures industry is currently facing."

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A BMPA spokesperson said it should have been producing Christmas food from about June or July onwards, but thus year it hasn't.

"There'll be shortages of party foods and things like pigs in blankets," the spokesperson was quoted as saying.

"Anything that is labour-intensive work could see shortages."

The Home Office said it is closely monitoring labour supply in the industry, to understand how it can "best ease particular pinch points".

It reassured people in the UK that similar challenges are being faced by other countries around the world.

"We want to see employers make long-term investments in the UK domestic workforce instead of relying on labour from abroad," the spokesperson said.

"Our Plan for Jobs is helping people across the country retrain, build new skills and get back into work.

"The Government encourages all sectors to make employment more attractive to UK domestic workers through offering training, careers options wage increases and investment."

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The shortage of butchers is just one of a number of labour issues facing the UK at the moment.

In recent weeks a shortage of lorry drivers has impacted the delivery of petrol to the country's forecourts, with new immigration laws affecting HGV drivers and the lingering effects of the pandemic.

The supply chain issues have seen huge queues at pumps and stations forced to close by lunchtime due to the influx of people heading out for fuel.

The government has insisted there is "no fuel shortage", and has continued to urge drivers to only get petrol when they need it.

However, the army is set to be drafted in to drive tankers and thousands of temporary visas are being offered to foreign HGV drivers.