Christmas on the rocks as bosses fear for turkey and wine supplies

Amid mounting labour shortages in the food industry, Mark Gorton, of Traditional Norfolk Poultry, is

Amid mounting labour shortages in the food industry, Mark Gorton, of Traditional Norfolk Poultry, and Fergus Fitzgerald of Adnams, discuss the potential impact on Christmas lunch - Credit: TNP/Adnams

Christmas dinner options might be limited this year with the poultry crisis "getting worse by the day". 

This week Nando's and KFC have been forced to shut their doors over a lack of chicken. 

And if the government does not act quickly supermarket shelves will be barren of birds this December, it has been claimed.

Mark Gorton, a founding director of Traditional Norfolk Poultry, based in Shropham near Attleborough, said the issues had arisen as a result of Brexit with members of his workforce moving home. 

Mr Gorton, who is also a member of the National Poultry Board, said: "Even if one person a week leaves my business that's 20 by Christmas, and by November I need to hire around 400 to 500 people more.

Traditional Norfolk Poultry director Mark Gorton with some of his firm's free-range turkeys. Picture

Traditional Norfolk Poultry director Mark Gorton with some of his firm's free-range turkeys. Picture: Chris Hill. - Credit: Chris Hill

"Demand has increased this year because people are willing to pay a bit more for high quality meat, and we're also expecting people to go a bit bigger this Christmas because they couldn't last year."

Currently industry experts suspect the shortage is fluctuating between 10pc and 20pc. 

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Mr Gorton supplies supermarkets with their beasts, adding: "The government needs to act now. Last year they stepped in with a scheme in November but it needs to happen before then - there's too much planning that goes into it."

This lack of action could see issues for Nando's and KFC persist, industry has warned. 

Nando's has already seconded some of its staff to lend a hand to its suppliers, but sources say this figure "will not touch the sides".

The industry executive added that the “complexity” of requirements for products ordered by the like of Nando’s and KFC means they will face greater levels of disruption from staff shortages than supermarkets. 

The good news for those who like to shop local is that smaller, independent butchers are finding their way around the problem. 

Ian Plunkett is a butcher at Archer's on Plumstead Road and said that he doesn't foresee any issues getting hold of stock. 

He explained: "We work with much smaller producers who exclusively supply butchers, farm shops, places like that. 

Jamie Archer, centre, with Ollie Baxter, left, and Ian Plunkett, at Archer's Butchers, after they wo

Jamie Archer, centre, with Ollie Baxter, left, and Ian Plunkett, at Archer's Butchers, after they won the Butchers Shop of the Year award in a national competition. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

"They have maybe between 10,000 and 12,000 birds and we only buy about 400 a year. So even though it's a small operation we're still buying a relatively low number of birds. 

"We have a great relationship with our supplier which means we hear when he starts breeding the birds for the larger sizes in March, and then again in June and August for smaller birds and we can discuss any issues which might be coming up."

But, he added: "As in every year we always recommend people be as organised as possible as early as possible. We had to stop taking orders in mid-December last year just because we had so many people shopping with us."

And turkey may not be the only element of Christmas dinner under threat according to Fergus Fitzgerald, Adnam's head of production.

He said importing wine from the rest of the world has been a challenge this year.

Adnams head brewer Fergus Fitzgerald at the company's brewer in Southwold with Earl Grey Lager.
Pic

Adnams head brewer Fergus Fitzgerald at the company's brewer in Southwold with Earl Grey Lager. Picture: Sarah Groves - Credit: Archant

"There are a combination of issues that are making it difficult at the moment," he said. "There is a huge pressure on haulage in the UK, but you have all the issues getting stuff into the UK in the first place.

"There's a long backlog from wineries running bottling lines for long periods over the last year or so, and now they're trying to catch up and refill the supply chain.

"Bringing things in from Europe just takes longer and is more expensive because of Covid and the way that Brexit has evolved.

"The haulage prices we've been quoted are maybe three times what they would have been before. Some of the costs will hopefully be temporary, but we obviously don't know that at the moment."

Mr Fitzgerald said that bad weather had led to poor harvests in some wine producing regions, such as the Marlborough district of New Zealand.

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