Christmas turkeys: Essex farmer says visas have prevented shortage

A turkey farm owner said there would be “no major shortage” of the birds this Christmas, thanks to the temporary workers visa scheme.

The government has increased the number of temporary poultry workers allowed to travel to and work in the UK.

Paul Kelly, owner of Kelly Bronze Turkeys, based near Chelmsford, Essex, said he had 63 people working on site, 40 of them from Poland.

He said the industry could not exist without seasonal workers.

Mr Kelly said the government’s decision to allow up to 5,500 poultry workers into the UK on three-month contracts through the Temporary Workers route meant there would “not be a major turkey shortage this year”.

He said 28 of his Polish workforce had settled status but the rest had come on the visa scheme.

“Without that seasonal staff, the turkey industry can’t exist,” he said.

Mr Kelly added: “People say ’employ local; but I’ve tried it; I have four weeks’ work at the end of November through to December. Four weeks, that’s all I have; anyone who wants to work around here has a job.

“How can I expect people to give up their full-time job to help me for four weeks?”

Among those who have come over to temporarily live in Essex from Poland to put in 12-hour days for a month is Jackob Chojnica.

Mr Chojnica, who is from the outskirts of Warsaw and who is working and living on site, said he earned £11 an hour, plus bonuses.

He said it was “good money” and better than he could earn back home.

Jack Mrcimak has made the trip over for 20 years.

He said the there was “good team spirit” at the turkey farm, which plucks and packs 35,000 birds over the four weeks.