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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Covid-19 staff shortage could shut UK meat production lines

“If the UK workforce situation deteriorates further, companies will be forced to start shutting down production lines altogether.”

That is the stark warning Nick Allen, CEO of the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), has issued in light of staff shortages in meat plants across the UK.

UK meat processors 

The news comes as processors across the UK have reported that up to one in ten staff members have been told to self-isolate as close contacts of Covid-19 from the NHS Covid app.

The Test and Trace app, last week, pinged more than 500,000 people – the highest figure recorded to date.

He revealed that “companies are having to simplify down their range of products to compensate for key skills being removed from their production lines”.

The UK meat processing industry employs approximately 97,000 workers.

A recent survey of members, ahead of this development, showed that plants were 11% short of staff.

Earlier this year, Allen, said: “Currently, not enough British people come forward to work in meat plants, which means the shortfall in staff has to be filled by overseas workers.”

“They have traditionally come from the EU and make up between 50-80% of the workforce in meat plants.”

“From now onwards, as a result of Brexit, we are facing an exodus of our EU staff who will leave behind a big gap in the productive capacity of Britain’s meat processing industry. And government has just made it doubly difficult to plug that gap.”

Skills shortage 

Allen has described the current situation as “critical”. He has called for butchers to be added to the shortage occupation list to enable the industry to temporarily fill these growing vacancies until the crisis passes.

Last November, the government announced that butchers will not be included on the shortage occupation list.

He said the following month, the Department for Education failed to include any food and drink courses, but specifically butchery courses, from the list of Level 3 adult courses eligible for the £95 million Lifetime Skills Guarantee.

More on beef prices.

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