DRIFFIELD, England, Oct 18 (Reuters) – When Nigel Upson checks the plucked chicken carcasses dangling from a rotating line at his poultry plant in England, he sees cash haemorrhaging out of his business from a collision of events that has distressed every part of the farm-to-fork supply chain. Like food manufacturers across Britain, Upson was hit this year by an exodus of eastern European workers who, deterred by Brexit paperwork, left en masse when COVID restrictions lifted, compounding his already soaring cost of feed and fuel. Such is the scale of the hit, he cut output by 10% and hiked wages by 11%, a rise that was immediately matched or bettered by neighbouring employers in the northeast of England.
Increases in the cost of food will surely follow. “We’re being hit from all sides,” Upson told Reuters in front of four vast, spotless sheds that house 33,000 chickens apiece. “It is, to use the phrase, a perfect storm. Something will have to give.”The deepening problems at Upson’s Soanes Poultry plant in east Yorkshire are a microcosm of the pressures building on businesses across the world’s fifth largest economy as they emerge from COVID to confront the post-Brexit trade barriers erected with Europe.
In the broader food sector, operators have increased wages by as much as 30% in some cases just to retain staff, likely forcing an end to an economic model that led supermarkets such as Tesco (TSCO.L) to offer some of the lowest prices in Europe. Following the departure of European workers who often did the jobs that British workers didn’t want, retailers may have to import more.
While all major economies have been hit by supply chain problems and a labour shortage after the pandemic, Britain’s tough new immigration rules have made it harder to recover, businesses say. Already a driver shortage has led to a lack of fuel at gas stations and gaps on supermarket shelves, while chicken restaurant chain Nandos ran out of chicken. The Bank of England is weighing up how much of a recent jump in inflation will prove long-lasting, requiring it to push up interest rates from their all-time low.
For the rural businesses situated near the flat, open fields of Yorkshire, Upson says the situation is dire. Although he says he needs 138 workers for his plant, he recently had to operate with under 100. Staff turnover is high. For the full article please follow the link below: For Britain’s chicken farmers, Brexit and COVID brew a perfect storm | Reuters