As a dearth of lorry drivers and seasonal workers begins to bite, farmers are warning a certain Christmas staple may be in short supply come December

Turkeys, right?

Yes indeed. If the poultry doom-mongers are correct, turkeys could soon be scarcer than hen’s teeth, and those Britons who aren’t still queuing at petrol stations on December 25 may have to find something else for their Christmas dinner.

Such as?

How about fried carp and potato salad, or roast pork followed by rice pudding with cherry sauce? That’s what is traditionally eaten in the Czech Republic and Denmark respectively. Gammon is popular in Iceland (also reindeer and ptarmigan) and although the Portuguese and the Mexicans do eat turkey, they also eat stews, soups and dishes made with salt cod.

Why the crisis?

Anticipating a lack of workers at what’s cutely termed the ‘processing’ end of the business, many turkey producers have cut back on the number of birds they are raising. According to Kate Martin of the Traditional Farm Fresh Turkey Association, farms are missing “a whole host of their workforce” as the workers the farmers normally rely on have moved to mainland Europe to find work. The British Poultry Council estimates that there are currently around 7000 vacancies in the sector.

Any good news?

Well, it’s all good news for turkeys, and also for manufacturers of vegan and vegetarian alternatives. It’s also a boon for smaller producers as they tend to recruit locally and don’t rely on migrant workers. “This year it’s looking like there is a national shortage of turkeys when we’re talking about supermarket shelves, rather than buying direct from your farm,” said Ms Martin. “It is the supermarket shelves that will be emptier of turkeys this year than they have been before, only because there have been less turkeys placed on the ground.”

So who’ll save Christmas?

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Or, as is the case here, they send for UK transport secretary Grant Shapps. He is currently riding to the rescue waving a temporary visa scheme aimed at enticing part-time workers to the UK. He’s also hoping to attract some lorry drivers so the food and haulage industries can cope with what is traditionally a very busy time.

And the Brazilians?

Did someone feed you that line or is it just an inspired non sequitur? Funnily enough, the Brazilians may have a part to play. After meeting Boris Johnson in New York last week, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro revealed he had asked him for an emergency deal to help the UK with shortages of an unspecified food product.

Gobble gobble?

Let’s just say Brazil is one of the world’s biggest producers of turkey meat and leave it at that.