he Government is “continuing to work closely” with the pig industry amid a reported shortage of butchers which could impact food supplies over Christmas.

Ministers are considering plans to ease visa restrictions for up to 1,000 foreign butchers, according to The Times

A spokesman for the Department For Environment, Food and Rural Affairs told the PA news agency it was aware of labour shortages.

The meat industry has been forced to focus on keeping supermarkets stocked with basic cuts due to butcher shortages (Jon Super/PA) / PA Wire

“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.”

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

A BMPA spokesperson was quoted as saying: “We really should have been producing Christmas food from about June or July onwards this year and so far we haven’t, so there’ll be shortages of party foods and things like pigs in blankets. Anything that is labour-intensive work could see shortages.”

Priti Patel is reportedly not keen on filling the worker gap with staff from outside the UK (Marc Ward/PA) / PA Wire

A Home Office spokesperson told PA: “We are closely monitoring labour supply and working with sector leaders to understand how we can best ease particular pinch points. 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. 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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