There could be a shortage of pigs in blankets at Christmas (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

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Families could face a pigs in blankets crisis this Christmas as a shortage of factory workers threatens supplies.

The festive favourite could be off the menu at Christmas after a 10% drop in workers from Europe put the traditional roast dinner side in jeopardy.

Even though Britain is in the midst of summer, food firms and supermarkets start their Christmas preparations from June to ensure shelves are stacked high with goodies for Yuletide.

But with Brexit and Covid-19 depleting the labour force in meat processing plants, industry bosses say they are facing a major headache to avoid bare shelves and chiller cabinets.

There has been a shortage of workers from the EU
(Image: Getty Images)

The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) and the British Poultry Council are demanding urgent action from ministers to protect food supplies.

They also want the Government to make it easier to recruit workers from the EU as new visa rules have made it difficult for those hoping to fill vacancies in the UK.

EU workers once accounted for up to 80% of the staff at some factories but the pandemic and Brexit saw a mass exodus, leaving massive gaps in the food supply chain’s labour force.

The festive favourite could be left off the menu this year
(Image: Getty Images)

BMPA chief executive Nick Allen said: “You actually start planning for Christmas at this time of year – and certainly things like pigs in blankets – you start making them now.”

Now there are fears that anxious store bosses may turn to imported pigs in blankets and other popular festive products to avoid a Christmas shortage.

Mr Allen said: “The danger is that retailers won’t tolerate empty shelves. They’ll just import meat and bring more in from abroad.”

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Richard Griffiths, chief executive of the British Poultry Council added: “British food producers have shown phenomenal resilience and worked incredibly hard to feed the nation amidst the biggest crisis of our lifetime.

"Now is the time for the Government to support British businesses to ensure that quality British food never diminishes.

“We cannot run the risk of creating a two-tier food system where we import food produced to lower standards and only the affluent can afford high quality British produce.”

A study carried out by jobs website Indeed showed the number of EU citizens looking for work in the UK was down by 36% in May from average levels in 2019.

Jobs in hospitality, the care sector and warehouses recorded the biggest decline at 41%.

Clicks on job adverts from non-EU countries and Ireland fell by just 1%, according to the research.