The cost of British-grown fruit and vegetables could soar by 15 per cent because of a shortage of migrant farm workers, government advisers warned yesterday.
A third of the country’s 67,000 seasonal farm jobs are filled by Romanians and Bulgarians, who are not allowed to work elsewhere in the economy.
But that restriction will be lifted in January, so citizens of the two countries will be free to take up jobs in hotels, restaurants, coffee shops and care homes.
The Migration Advisory Committee said ministers faced a choice between allowing a new wave of migrants from outside the EU to replace them, or seeing prices rise.
The cost of celery, strawberries and salad leaves could leap by 10 or 15 per cent, advisers said.
The committee said it did not believe British workers would be prepared to take the farm jobs.
Chairman David Metcalf said the way the benefits system works meant a person working long hours in a field could receive as little as £100 extra per month.
They would also face the problem of having to return to benefits, as most work lasts for only six months each year.