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

Faulty janitorial equipment likely caused Saanich school fire

Saturday morning fire damaged roof of Strawberry Vale Elementary

Greater Victoria records highest unemployment in history with 11 per cent

Past peak was 7.8 per cent more than a decade ago, according to South Island Prosperity Partnership

Human behaviour likely to deter birds from Esquimalt Lagoon, survey suggests

More Great Blue Herons spotted, fewer mallard ducks seen

Garth Homer Society in Saanich turns lemons into lemonade with online programs

Victoria disability organization sets up online programs and learning tools in wake of COVID-19

Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre to host a trio of acts

Aaron Pritchett, Alex Cuba and Valdy will each play four shows

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.

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

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

Sports fishers protest Fraser River Chinook closures

Public Fishery Alliance wants hatchery fish open for harvest

B.C. Ferries increasing passenger capacity after COVID-19 restrictions

Transport Canada 50-per-cent limit being phased out, no current plans to provide masks

Shellfish industry get funds to clean up at Island sites and beyond

Businesses can apply to cover half of costs to clean up so-called ‘ghost gear’

Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Most Read