B.C.’s agricultural sector short 6,000 to 8,000 jobs due to lack of foreign workers

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BC's agriculture industry is facing a major worker shortage this year. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham discusses how COVID-19 has disrupted the industry and what the Provincial Government is doing to help out – May 29, 2020

British Columbia’s agricultural sector is 6,000 to 8,000 workers short of typical employment levels as the sector battles with concerns over COVID-19.

“We do know farmers and producers are scaling back some of their production to reflect the labour available to them,” Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said.

“We do see some adjustments coming from the agriculture industry. As we come to the bounty of our season we will see a deficit in our labour.”

The shortages mostly come from an inability to get temporary foreign workers into Canada during the pandemic.

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Millions of dollars of new aid for B.C. agriculture and food industries – May 5, 2020

Popham says about 1,500 temporary foreign workers arrived in B.C. before travel restrictions due to COVID-19 were put in place.

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In response to the shortages, the province is launching the B.C. Farm, Fish and Food Job Connector to recruit workers in B.C. to the industry.

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The jobs listed will include those for crop and seafood harvesters, food processing and farm workers, agrologists, large machinery operators and marketing specialists. There are currently 600 jobs listed on the site.

Workers will receive specific training from the farms or from the ministry if they need to improve skills to do the work.

“There is a lot of people that don’t even know the diversity of the jobs in the sector and it will be out responsibility to let them know,” Popham said.

“Some workers may have no experience at all so there will be basic training given.”

READ MORE: Fruit pickers coming to B.C. need subsidized housing to curb COVID-19 outbreak: advocate

B.C. farms, ranches, seafood and food processing companies generated a record $15 billion in revenue in 2018.

Jobs are available in more than 30 communities in the Fraser Valley, Okanagan, Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island, as well as in the Kootenays, Cariboo and northern B.C.

Farm owners are looking for any help they can get in order to attract employees.

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“B.C. berry growers are facing a serious labour shortage this season due to COVID-19, and this website is a good idea to let people know we are hiring and looking for their help,” Westberry Farms owner Parm Bains said.

“The berry industry urgently needs seasonal workers interested in harvesting and packing jobs. Many farms also have longer-term positions available in field and crop management and quality control, and this site could connect us to those people.”