The pig industry across the UK has been thrown into chaos over the past month due to a shortage of abattoir workers. A high proportion were migrant workers who went home during lockdown. Last week the government relented to pressure and agreed to grant 800 visas to allow foriegn butchers into the UK. However it is not yet clear how many may make their way to NI.
Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots told the News Letter: “While the Government announcement of 800 temporary visas of 6 months duration for butchers to work in the pig processing sector is helpful, I believe it falls well short of what is needed to alleviate severe labour shortages in this sector Challenges remain, not least the lead in time to the opening of the scheme and the recruitment of workers.”
He said a major barrier to recruitment for the sector is the English language requirement, and although this is not a condition for these visas he is calling for flexibilities to the Immigration System to help alleviate pressures in NI.
His Department will continue to monitor the situation and is examining other elements of the government package and engaging with farmers and processors.