British ministers Thursday bowed to meat industry demands to allow more abattoir workers into the country as the U.K. grapples with widespread labor shortages.
Environment Secretary George Eustice announced that up to 800 pork butchers will be able to apply for temporary visas allowing them to travel and work in the U.K. for six months. The measure will be in place until December 31.
A shortage of butchers at slaughterhouses has left U.K. farms facing a surplus of pigs. It’s prompted industry warnings that tens of thousands of animals will need to be culled and raised fears farmers will face a debt crisis.
The U.K. government has blamed global pressures — including a temporary suspension of pig exports to China amid the COVID-19 pandemic — for the industry’s problems, but pig farmers have also warned Brexit has contributed to the shortage of workers because it cut off free movement for EU laborers.
The visa decision comes alongside a vow by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to increase operating hours for abattoirs “where possible,” and to fund a scheme to help meat processors store slaughtered pigs for a longer time period.
“A unique range of pressures on the pig sector over recent months such as the impacts of the pandemic and its effect on export markets have led to the temporary package of measures we are announcing today,” Eustice said in a statement. His department added that offering up visas does not represent a “long term solution” and urged businesses to “make long term investments” in the U.K. workforce “instead of relying on” overseas labor.
The move came alongside an easing of rules for foreign truckers operating on U.K. turf, as the haulage sector battles its own staffing crisis.