Brexit, COVID-19 Brew A Perfect Storm: UK Chicken Farmers
When Nigel Upson checks the plucked chicken carcasses dangling from a rotating line at his poultry plant in England, he sees cash hemorrhaging out of his business from a collision of events that has distressed every part of the farm-to-fork supply chain, Kate Holton and James Davey reported for Reuters.
Photo Insert: The deepening problems at Nigel Upson's Soanes Poultry plant in east Yorkshire are a microcosm of the pressures building on businesses across the United Kingdom.
Like many 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 neighboring 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 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.