BELFAST (Reuters) - British meat producers have begun exporting beef carcasses to the European Union for butchering before re-importing them due to labour shortages in the wake of Brexit, The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) said on Wednesday.
Beef carcasses have been put on lorries and sent by ferry to the Republic of Ireland to cutting and packing plants to be butchered and then brought back to the United Kingdom, the association's chief executive Nick Allen said.
"Due to the shortage of meat workers in the UK and the limitations to recruit caused by the immigration policy, processors are taking advantage of the fact that other countries are sourcing extra labour from around the world and exporting meat to be processed and returned to this country," Allen told Reuters.
"Whilst it is an added cost it is a better option than empty shelves and animals building up on the farms," he said.
There is a 15% staff shortage across many meat plants in the United Kingdom, climbing as high as 20% in some cases, Allen said. The UK beef sector needs to fill 15,000 vacancies, a majority of them skilled or semi skilled, he added.
Last month the British government agreed to issue 800 temporary visas for butchers to work in the UK for six months, but the government has not said how many applications have been made.
(Reporting by Amanda Ferguson; editing by Richard Pullin)