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In a recent industry meeting with Scottish government ministers, the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SMAW) said the meat industry was at serious risk of collapse due to labour shortages across both processing and distribution.

“While the current labour shortage is already extremely worrying, our assessment is that the situation will become far worse as we move into busier meat demand periods,”​ the SAMW warned.

“However, this is a relatively quiet time of the year – certainly as compared with the autumn and pre-Christmas period when demand can be expected to rise sharply. At that point, there is a real risk that supplies will run short and gaps will begin to appear on retail shelves.”

Government needs to act now

Even if Government acts now to address this crisis situation, it is likely that meat supplies will still be under pressure towards the end of the year, the SAMW claimed.

“If the Government does nothing, however, deciding to wait and see, we believe there will be a serious shortage of product by late 2021,”​ the organisation added. “We repeat, it is the Government’s responsibly to ensure the country has sufficient food and this responsibility to is danger of not being met this year.

“Clearly, we need action from Government and we need it now, a point we made forcefully to ministers this morning. Our priority request is to that we need access to EU workers to operate our businesses this year. One option is to provide such workers with short term visas – say for two years. We also need the government to include butchers, etc. on their shortage occupation list (SOL).”

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