All agriculture seasonal worker programs have been affected as travel bans have been put in place until further notice, Canadian growers say. They start looking for local workers and try to lobby to adjust the rules to secure enough labour during the upcoming season.
Ontario farmers say they're worried as COVID-19 travel restrictions, announced Monday, are already stopping migrant workers from entering the country, something they say could devastate the province's fruit and vegetable growers as the spring planting season draws near. "We will see shortages within our grocery stores in spring, summer and fall if the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SWAP) is put on hold and we're not allowed to bring those workers in," Ken Wall, CEO of Sandy Shore Farms, told CBC News.
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Shock with impact
The Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers' Association says the news comes as a shock and if not solved has serious implications for individual growers and the sector as a whole. "We are working vehemently with our partners to ensure growers will have the labour resources they require."
Also, Conservative Chatham-Kent-Leamington MP Dave Epp has issued a letter to the Liberals, calling for the federal government to "revisit" its decision. About 1,300 migrant workers were expected to come to Leamington for growing season, according to Epp, adding "some workers are here already, many more need to come."
"I don't think it's well understood by this government that spring is here," said Epp. "It's not just a matter of delaying a week or two or a month and then carrying on. This puts into jeopardy an entire season of our food production."