Government officials have visited hundreds of farmers to check that temporary migrant agricultural workers have been recruited legally.

The Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) contacted more than 300 farms over the past week (7 April) to find out where – and from whom – workers for the current season have been hired from.

The checks were carried out so the GLA could identify who had filled the temporary posts made available after the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) came to an end in December 2013.

It also wanted to check that farmers were not using the services of unlicensed labour providers – an offence which carries fines and up to six months in prison.

Read also: Farmers’ fears over loss of seasonal worker scheme

Under SAWS more than 21,000 people from Bulgaria and Romania had been allowed to work for UK fruit and vegetable growers temporarily each year.

But SAWS was made unnecessary after a change in immigration rules last year meant that Bulgarians and Romanians can now work legally in the UK.

Paul Broadbent, GLA chief executive, said the visits were important to help the agency check no unlicensed labour providers had moved in to fill the substantial number of temporary positions on UK fruit and vegetable farms.

“The response from farmers has been very positive,” Mr Broadbent added. “We will be issuing a full report on our findings in the near future once a detailed analysis is completed.”