Canada’s multi-billion dollar agriculture industry is currently short more than 59,000 farm workers, a new study has found – a crisis that is walloping producers’ bottom lines.
The Conference Board of Canada found lack of available help has also cost Canadian farmers $1.5 billion in lost farm cash receipts – with 17 per cent of the 1,037 people surveyed noting they had put off expansions because of the labour crunch.
The worker shortage is expected to balloon to 114,000 jobs by 2025, the study found. Two thirds of the current labour gap is in the horticulture industry, with the remainder largely on beef and dairy farms.
“The situation is critical now and will only get worse unless it is effectively addressed,” said Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst, CAHRC Executive Director.
The data, compiled by the Conference Board of Canada on behalf of the Canadian Agriculture Human Resource Council (CHARC), was finalized in August 2015. Of the 1,034 participants surveyed, 813 identified themselves as primary producers.
The investigation only looked at primary production and did not take into account any worker shortages in processing — where the Canadian Meat Council estimates there are currently 500 to 1,000 job openingsat any given time.
While the crisis is affecting farms across the country, the Conference Board found the biggest labour gaps were in British Columbia and Ontario.
The current shortfall is three times greater than labour shortages in other Canadian industries — a problem worsened by the industry’s rural location and aging population.
One in twelve jobs in Canadian agriculture is going unfilled compared to 1 in 36 jobs in other sectors, CAHRC said.
The shortage is also compounded by immigration snarls — with Canadian agriculture not getting its “fair share” of new Canadians, the Conference Board’s Michael Burt said, adding agriculture has long depended on foreign workers to ease its worker shortage.
Right now, approximately three per cent of immigrants coming into Canada over the past five years enter the agriculture industry, Burt said. That number should be closer to four per cent.
“Broadly speaking, management occupations, farm workers, the kind of general farm worker category there is an underrepresentation,” Burt said, noting there isn’t really a permanent path to residency for farm workers.
Meanwhile, recent layoffs from Canada’s beleaguered oil and gas industry is not the “magic solution” to agriculture’s labour crunch, Burt said.
“First of all you, you might not have the right skill match. Secondly, those people may be in more rural areas right now because that’s where the oil jobs were – but they may not stay there,” Burt said.
“I do think our numbers reflect what we expected to happen in Canada in terms of migration flow between provinces based on what’s been going on in the oil patch.”
The shortfalls were made public Tuesday afternoon at a three-day industry conference in Winnipeg where some 250 farm groups, industry leaders and producers have gathered to talk about the ongoing labour crisis. The roundtables continue Wednesday.
(Source – https://ipolitics.ca/2016/03/15/canadas-agriculture-industry-short-nearly-60000-farm-workers/)