The Home Office has increased the number of work permits available for overseas workers by 5000.

The number of Bulgarian and Romanian workers entering Britain under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme had been restricted to 16,250 this year.

But in the Spring, Farmers Weekly revealed that the shortage of labour had left growers facing losses of millions of pounds, as soft fruit would have to be left unpicked.

A Home Office spokeswoman said that in recognition of this and after further consultation with the industry, the number of permits for 2009 would rise to 21,250.

NFU horticulture board chairman Richard Hirst said: “We welcome the announcement by the Home Office that there will be an increase in the number of SAWS permits. The decision reflects the compelling evidence put by the industry that there is insufficient seasonal labour to pick and harvest crops.”