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Who will Wring the Necks of our Christmas Turkeys?

It is that time of year that the seasonally influenced food manufacturing sector starts its annual panic.

The Christmas season remains extraordinarily important to certain manufacturers as well as the retailers with some recording 40%+ of annual sales in the next 30 days. Very often these products are short shelf life and require a high degree of labour in production or finishing as well as the pressures on the distribution chain.

However much the sector is encouraged to plan ahead the economics of being under the supermarket cosh means that manufacturers are left in the unenviable position of having to “guess” as production levels including the people needed to complete production.

In theory finding the people should not be an issue with 8 million people economically inactive but the reality is totally different.

  • Many unemployed simply don’t want to work
  • The work is poorly paid and for those on benefits it can be counter-productive to accepts short term contracts as it could erode benefit payments.
  • The food industry that employs 1 in 7 of the UK workforce has long relied on Eastern European labour but whilst demand to come to the UK remains strong the economics of short term contracts do not work out.
  • The pool of free labour (that wants to work) has been reducing and shortages of willing workers are being reported in some areas of the UK.

So who will pluck the Turkey’s this Christmas and smoke the Salmon?

Well the reality is that much of what we believe to be fresh and sold as chilled products has actually been produced many months ago and frozen and will be released on the “defrost” a food trade euphemism.

However, there could be pressure on producers of truly fresh products as the labour may well not be there and everybody will be blaming others in the supply chain for failing to plan and support but it is difficult to get the selectively deaf to listen.


Author: Chris Slay

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