Godstone (United Kingdom) (AFP)

In the heart of the English countryside, at the "Flower Farm", it's the turmoil.

Patrick Deeley still does not have sufficient manpower to deliver his turkeys for Christmas.

"I am not sure I will get enough staff to be able to do the work required before Christmas. The pressure will be strong," the farmer from Surrey (south) told AFP.

Patrick should already be able to count on the presence of 12 seasonal workers by mid-December, to help him pack, prepare and deliver his poultry before Christmas.

For more than 15 years, he has been recruiting workers from Europe.

He hasn't managed to sign a single one this year.

In his dark wooden barn 30 meters long, 600 white turkeys surround him when he comes to feed them.

"Brexit is, in my opinion, an important factor, as one of the consequences is a massive loss of labor," he explains.

Brexit, which entered into force on January 1, now makes it more difficult for workers from the European Union to enter the United Kingdom who must obtain a visa.

Faced with the labor shortage affecting the poultry sector, some breeders have increased the number of classified ads to recruit.

But applications are extremely rare.

"We are six weeks away from the start of preparing the turkeys for the Christmas market and, at the moment, we have no manpower," he adds, visibly concerned.

- "Unloved" -

Due to the labor shortage, some farmers have been forced to produce fewer turkeys this year and supermarkets have reduced their order books.

"The number of turkeys has been drastically reduced (...) it's a problem across the country, it doesn't matter if you have ten turkeys or 20,000 turkeys, the problem is basically the same, there is a huge shortage of skilled workforce, ”says Patrick.

A turkey farm, October 12, 2021 in Oxspring, near Sheffield, UK OLI SCARFF AFP

Faced with this situation, turkey lovers order earlier.

Of the 40 farms grouped into the "Traditional Farm Fresh Turkeys Association", a majority reported a significant increase in orders compared to last year on the same date.

Some farms even said they received five times as many orders.

Hence the risk of seeing turkey prices rise.

"I think people will unfortunately see an increase in the cost of products," predicts Patrick.

With poultry farming being a key sector of the British economy, the government has decided to grant 5,500 work visas valid until December 31, to bring in seasonal workers.

But farmers fear this initiative will not be a game-changer.

"Would I leave my home, my country, my job, my safety, just to come and help a country that told me it didn't want me anymore? I wouldn't do it" comments Patrick for whom foreign workers now feel "unloved".

As Christmas approaches, the breeders seem resigned: "I will have to persuade the people who work for me that we are going to have to work 18-19 hours a day, instead of 16", also explains Patrick.

A turkey farm, October 12, 2021 in Oxspring, near Sheffield, UK OLI SCARFF AFP

The poultry sector is one of the most affected by the lack of manpower.

But it is far from being the only one.

As the holiday season approaches, fir growers, pig breeders and toy stores are also concerned that they will not be able to meet demand due to a lack of staff and truck drivers.

© 2021 AFP

Keywords: patrick deeley, turmoil, afp, countryside, heart, farmer, staff, turkeys, uk, christmas, manpower, turkey, labor shortage, flower farm, godstone