Canada's farm worker crisis
According to a new report from The Conference Board of Canada, the lack of available help is costing Canadian farmers dearly in lost business. On top of that, around 17% of the 1037 people surveyed said they had put off expansions because of the labour crunch.
And the news gets worse, as the shortage in farm workers is likely to escalate to 114,000 by 2025.
The horticulture industry is suffering the most with almost two thirds of the total jobs lost in this sector, closely followed by dairy and beef farms.
Canadian Agriculture Human Resource Council executive director, Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst, said: “The situation is critical now and will only get worse unless it is effectively addressed.
“The Council has established the necessary collaborative channels with government and industry and now we need to continue to move forward to find solutions.”
The British Columbia and Ontario regions are more affected by the crisis than other areas of Canada.
Despite efforts in the past to address the issue, the labour shortfall is spiralling out of control. Immigration factors are adding to the problem, with only 3% of immigrants coming into Canada over the past five years entering the agricultural industry.
In response, industry efforts have been encouraging young people and workers from other sectors to get into agriculture as a career. Despite extensive efforts, gaps still exist and there will be a large void in the future.
Labour shortages create risks to farmers, who can only hope they will have the same or greater access to both domestic and foreign workers in the future as they do now.
The Canadian study examined only primary production – agri-food industries such as food and beverage processors or input suppliers, which have additional labour demands, were not considered in the research.
However, labour shortages affect both primary producers and food processors in Canada.
Effects of the projected gap in the agricultural workforce could extend beyond the farms and fields and into Canadian homes, because unfilled jobs in Canadian food processing plants force Canadian foods to be processed outside of Canada, in places like the United States and Mexico where there are workers.
This means Canada must import the food back in after processing, which adds to food costs for Canadians.
These two factors together could have a significant impact on Canada’s ability to produce and process its own food.