Government officials have said they are “confident” there will be enough turkeys for Christmas despite concerns over food shortages.

Worries have been raised due to the lack of butchers, causing concern that there won’t be enough turkeys for Christmas this year.

Eight hundred temporary visas have been approved for foreign butchers and 5,500 visas for poultry workers to come to the UK after labour shortages sparked fears that animals could not be processed in time for Christmas.

Government update on Christmas food shortage

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) sought to reassure politicians that the supply chain had stabilised.

Director-general for food, farming and biodiversity at Defra David Kennedy said uptake of the poultry worker visas had been “pretty good” while his department was “feeling very positive” that all 800 butchers’ visas would be used.

He said: “I think we’re confident, and if you listened last week to the chief executive of Bernard Matthews he was saying there is enough capacity now in terms of turkeys for Christmas.

“More generally I think there is an HGV issue which is affecting the whole of the food system. We monitor that closely.

“The current supply situation is reasonably stable. It’s not at the ideal level but it’s not in a bad place at all.”

He said that the first poultry workers are expected to arrive in the UK at the beginning of November, with the pig butchers arriving two weeks later.

 However, Mr Kennedy said the problems in the pig industry would take six months to sort out “given what is in the system”.

Industry figures have previously warned that the backlog of animals ready for slaughter could result in as many as 150,000 pigs being destroyed.

Mike Sheldon, pork sector board chairman of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, told the PA news agency that the situation “should start to ease little by little” thanks to the new butchers, but warned there could be more problems around Christmas and New Year’s Eve due to staff taking time off.

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