Brexit, COVID brew storm for UK chicken farmers

British farmer Nigel Upson says a 'perfect storm' has hit his poultry plant in northern England.

He says supply chain issues following the global health crisis, and an exodus of eastern European workers put off by Brexit paperwork have hurt.

To cope with the changes, Upson cut output by 10% and hiked wages 11%. But that was matched or bettered by neighbouring employers.

"We are being hit from all sides, and the food standards agency are doing their best to beat us up as well which is uncomfortable but it is, to use the phrase, a perfect storm and as a consequence the industry will be losing money and something will have to give at some point."

Businesses like Upson's have urged the British government to ease visa rules to help out.

Far from changing course, Prime Minister Boris Johnson says businesses need to cut their addiction to cheap foreign labour and offer well paid jobs.

Upson said not all jobs fit that bill, and warned a shortage of workers risks destroying the rural economy.

"To say that we need a high-wage, high-skill economy, what skill do you need to put chicken in a box? We can put wages up but prices will go up and unfortunately because of the percentage of income that lower-paid people spend on food - 50% of their income goes on food - then it will hit them the worse."

Operators have raised wages by as much as 30% in some cases just to keep staff.

That has likely forced an end to an economic model that led supermarkets like Tesco to offer some of Europe's lowest prices.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting