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An extract from the letter to minister of state for immigration Mark Harper

The NFU and British Growers' Association have both signed a letter addressed to immigration minister Mark Harper urging the government to create a suitable alternative to theSeasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS).

The letter, which has also been signed by horticulturalists including James Davies of SAWS labour provider HOPS and Adrian Barlow of English Apples & Pears, warns the government that an absence of a structured seasonal worker scheme could lead to a 'marked rise in immigration' and would negatively impact on UK food supply.

Temporary restrictions on Romanian and Bulgarian workers in the UK are due to expire next year, leaving them free to seek any work opportunities they can find. Currently short-term agricultural work is one of the few sectors where they are able to legally work in the UK.

With every 3.5 seasonal workers only accounting for one permanent role in UK horticulture, the letter requests clarity from the government on how it plans to deal with next year's changes.

'There is no actual evidence that sufficient numbers of Romanians and Bulgarians will return to the UK to work in horticulture after restrictions are lifted.

'The sector has experienced such shortfalls in the past. The impact on food supply to consumers will be immediate and visible. Consumers rightly expect to be able to buy British fresh produce and retailers consistently confirm high levels of demand. It would be fundamentally wrong not to be able to meet this demand and be faced with increased worker immigration numbers to resolve the situation.'

A recent NFU survey claimed that over 50 per cent of UK growers do not believe Romanian and Bulgarian workers will return to work on farms in 2014.