Red Delicious apple harvest in Summerland, 2016. (Summerland Review)

COVID-19: B.C. too dependent on foreign food production workers

New B.C. job site links unemployed with farm, seafood work

Border disruptions due to the coronavirus pandemic have B.C. facing a shortfall of up to 8,000 temporary foreign workers this year, Agriculture Minister Lana Popham says.

The province has launched a new website that Popham says will provide a one-stop shop for agriculture and food production jobs. The site, www.bcagjobs.bc.ca, already has 600 positions available as B.C. agriculture moves from the pruning and planting stage toward harvest.

“COVID-19 has brought into focus for many of us our province’s food security,” Popham said May 28. “It has shone a bright light on the need for our province to become more self-sufficient, more sustainable and resilient.”

The jobs go beyond the familiar seasonal fruit picking and other harvesting jobs that urban people hear about.

“We have jobs like cherry production line worker in the Okanagan, a tractor operator in Surrey, a dairy farm worker in Black Creek, a farm manager in Creston, a farm supervisor in Quesnel, a fish processing plant worker in North Vancouver, a greenhouse worker in Delta or a berry picker in the Fraser Valley,” Popham said.

RELATED: COVID-19 outbreak at Okanagan nursery over

RELATED: Ottawa pays $50M for foreign worker quarantine

Berry crops are some of the first to ripen in B.C., and among the most labour intensive to harvest.

“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,” said Parm Bains, owner of Westberry Farms, a blueberry producer in the Fraser Valley. “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.”

Farm operators on Vancouver Island and elsewhere in B.C. also noted the unintended effect of Ottawa’s broad-based and Canadian Emergency Response Benefit. They signed up students for seasonal work and then saw many decline the work once $2,000 a month in temporary benefits became available with few conditions or checks on the connection between unemployment and COVID-19.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

Four air ambulance flights out of Terrace delayed or cancelled

Pandemic precautions caused nighttime closure of service station providing weather data to pilots

Skeena Resources, Tahltan prez excited by purchase of Eskay Creek

Skeena gets full control of mine, Barrick gets 12 per cent of Skeena and a one per cent royalty

VIA Rail lays off 1,000 unionized workers across the country

Northern B.C. route Jasper to Prince George to Prince Rupert is not affected by VIA Rail layoffs

Overall house sales drop in the northwest

COVID-19 pandemic slowed market activity

Wage subsidy will be extended until December amid post-COVID reopening: Trudeau

Trudeau said the extension will ‘give greater certainty and support to businesses’

Tree planters get help with COVID-19 protective measures

Ottawa funds extra transportation, sanitizing for crews

Trudeau apologizes for not recusing himself from WE decision

He says his and his family’s longtime involvement with the WE organization should have kept him out of the discussions

Beverly Hills 90210 star’s family selling Vancouver Island Beach Resort

You can own Jason Priestley’s Terrace Beach Resort in Ucluelet for less than $5 million

Islanders want BC Ferries to follow order that lets residents board before tourists

For ferry-dependent communities, ferries are often the sole practical lifeline to work, school or medical appointments.

Washington’s NFL team drops ‘Redskins’ name after 87 years

The franchise was given the name back in 1933, when it was still in Boston

Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003

Most Read