Confirmed: Tories to quadruple migrant quota for farm labour scheme

The Prime Minister has now reportedly signed off plans to allow businesses to hire up to 10,000 workers from outside of the EU.

Under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS), announced last year, 2,500 people from outside the EU can work temporarily on British farms per year.

But numerous industry groups have called on this cap to be increased as labour concerns continue.

Soft fruit production in the United Kingdom has grown dramatically, by 130% in the last 20 years.

But the sector has seen a sharp decline in the number of seasonal workers, the vast majority from the EU, available to pick crops since the UK voted to leave the bloc.

Defra Secretary Theresa Villiers has now told The Sunday Telegraph that the immigration system 'should reflect the needs' of farmers' businesses.

“Our immigration system should reflect the needs of the farming sector, and expanding and continuing the seasonal workers scheme will be an important part of that,” she said.

An NFU survey released last month shows that a third of growers have been forced to leave 100 tons of fruit - around 16m apples - unpicked because of a lack of labour.

The UK apple harvest, worth £400 million a year, has been hit the hardest by the worker shortfall, in part fuelled by Brexit and ongoing political uncertainty.

Last year, the severity of the labour crisis led to food 'rotting in fields'.

Source: FarmingUK