The COVID-19 pandemic seems to be negatively affecting many sectors across Canada at this point in time. In fact, on the cusp of harvest season, many Canadian farmers are concerned that a delay in arrival from temporary migrant workers, due to travel restrictions currently in place, might result in lowered production, as well as potential food shortages. The end result? Increase in prices once you hit the grocery store for your weekly food shop.
Many farmers across the Great White North rely heavily on temporary foreign workers. Annually, the agricultural industry in Canada employs approximately 60,000 of these workers; however, when the borders were closed around all non-essential travel on March 21st, initially, these workers were included. While an exemption has been granted since, it is still unclear as to how many will be brought in for the season.
While the hope is some workers could be arriving soon, erratic flight schedules into Canada have caused some delay. Add in the fact that workers are required to quarantine for 14 days, and harvesting productions will continue to be delayed despite an effort to move things along.
On top of all that, many of these foreign workers are deciding against coming to Canada after all, thanks to the fear around COVID-19 and getting the virus. Another factor that may also slow down production are work orders around accommodate social distancing measures, which can also cut into production costs as well.
Slower and increased costs around harvest production might ultimately lead to increased prices on food, as well as potential shortages.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently announced a program to help farmers by providing $1,500 for each temporary foreign worker used to help boost things in regard to assisting with added equipment costs and extra housing. While it might be a nice thought, this does not help as it relates to production delay.
Having said all this, the issue around attaining temporary migrant workers could offer a unique opportunity for Canada, as many individuals across the nation are currently unemployed due to COVID19-related layoffs. A Facebook and Instagram account (@HelpCanadaGrow) was launched recently that aims to assist local farmers to connect with people who can help with this gap in labour. This could offer up a bit of a win-win situation, and help link those that are desperate for work, to those that are desperate to find people to work.