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Coronavirus: B.C. Fruit Growers Association calls federal aid ‘profoundly underwhelming’

The Okanagan is seeing a huge drop in agricultural workers due to COVID-19.
The Okanagan is seeing a huge drop in agricultural workers due to COVID-19. Global News

“Profoundly underwhelming.”

That’s what the B.C. Fruit Growers Association is calling the federal government’s financial assistance package to Canada’s agriculture industry.

On Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the industry would receive $252 million in aid to help offset financial pressure caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

READ MORE: Trudeau pledges $252M for agriculture industry hard-hit by COVID-19

But just hours after the announcement, the B.C. Fruit Growers Association (BCFGA) sent out a press release, stating “the financial support package to the Canadian agriculture industry announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this morning is profoundly underwhelming.”

According to the BCFGA, the $252 million was less than 10 per cent of the $2.6 billion that the Canadian Federation of Agriculture requested last month.

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“The announcement today addresses the immediate needs for the beef and livestock producers and processors, but has not addressed the immediate needs of the fruit, vegetable and grain sectors,” said BCFGA president Pinder Dhaliwal.

“We can’t underestimate the urgency of the need for immediate financial assistance to prevent the devastation of our industry sector. Our members are at a point where decisions are being made about whether they can even afford to produce their crops this year.”

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The BCFGA said while it appreciates the overall financial support, many challenges remain, such as increased costs and securing labourers, and that more help is needed.

“The Canadian government needs to recognize that the reliable supply of food from other countries is at risk, and now more than ever there is a need to support a secure, safe food supply produced in Canada,” said Glen Lucas, BCFA general manager.

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“We will continue to work with Agriculture Minister [Marie-Claude] Bibeau, but our expectation is that she and her government will take a stronger stand to protect our agriculture production capacity in this country.”
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