The county's MEP met with the chairman of the British Tomato Growers Association to issue a stark warning about Brexit and the future of the beloved salad ingredient.

On Friday morning Labour Member of the European Parliament Alex Mayer visited tomato growers in Glinwell, Nazeing to coincide with British Tomato Week.

Ms Mayer met with tomato association boss Matthew Simon who told her how 97 per cent of workers in Glinwell’s 400 strong team of packers and pickers are from other European countries including Italy, Poland and Romania.

The Government has not yet outlined its plans for immigration post-Brexit and Mr Simon expressed concerns that without access to seasonal EU labour, ripe tomatoes could turn to mush in their 8.1 hectares of glasshouses.

Ms Mayer said: “We can’t have plump, ripe tomatoes turning to mush in greenhouses. We urgently need clarity from the Government.

"They seem to understand the need for a seasonal agricultural workers scheme, but warm words are not enough. We need action now.

“Already the weakness of the pound makes working in the UK less attractive and farmers urgently need to know who they will be able to hire.

“The first commercially cultivated tomatoes were recorded in Essex in the 19th century.

"Let’s make sure this is an industry that is fit for the 21st century too.”

A recent National Farmers Union survey found 13 per cent of vacancies for pickers were left unfilled last year, with a high of nearly 30 per cent in harvest months.

In 2017 the UK exported £7.5 million worth of tomatoes and grew over 92,000 tonnes of tomatoes.