Meat industry needs skilled foreign workers

Meat leaders are calling on the government to open the door to foreign workers in the face of a chronic shortage of skilled staff.

Processors are reporting significant losses due to lack of staff, with one large operator reporting a drop in production of 27%, equating to a loss of £40,000 a week.

Stuart Roberts, director of the British Meat Processors Association, has now written to the government migration authorities to highlight the sector's difficulties.

In the letter, he said: "Our members are encountering a chronic shortage of skilled labour in their abattoirs and boning facilities for slaughtermen, boners and trimmers." He said the loss of skilled staff - with employees from EU states returning home - combined with the ongoing pressures on the sector in terms of costs was putting intolerable strain on his members.

The letter added: "As they are unable to replace these returning employees, from within the EU, a possible alternative has been sought from outside the EU, and on behalf of our members can I encourage you to acknowledge that there is a chronic shortage of skilled labour in our members factories, and therefore look favourably at any applications for permits for employees from outside the EU."

He said other sectors had had their skill shortages recognised under the new sector-based scheme, and he urged the government to take a similar view on the red meat sector.