Britain’s celebrated autumn apple harvest has been threatened by the government’s immigration crackdown, according to reports.
Apple firms fear that restrictions on the number of foreign students allowed to work in the UK will leave them unable to collect all the fruit they’ve grown.
Farmers and growers have long relied on the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme to bring migrant workers to the UK for busy periods.
Previously it was open to anyone outside the EU, but this year the scheme was changed to only allow Romanian and Bulgarian workers into the UK. In-demand workers from Russia, the Ukraine and Moldova have effectively been excluded.
The original quota of 25,000 employees across the UK has also been slashed to 16,250.
Adrian Barlow, chief executive of the English Apples and Pears employers’ group, told the Observer: “If we can’t get the pickers, there is a grave danger that apples will be left on trees, and over-mature. Frankly, by then it won’t be worth the cost of picking them, so they will be left unpicked.
“That would be an absolute tragedy, and quite shocking at a time when there are reports of food shortages.”