Published 15 April 2020
Food production and processing in Canada is extremely reliant on the labor or foreign temporary workers. The Canadian government has pledged funds to the food production and processing sectors in order support employers as they navigate the new COVID-19 protocols in place for foreign workers.
April 15, 2020 — It has become increasingly evident over the past few weeks that the food supply chain in Canada is in a precarious position. The pandemic is putting food production and processors under immense strain as they try and maintain operations while adhering to COVID-19 measures. In response to this, the Canadian government has pledged $50 million in funds for farmers, fish harvesters as well as food production and food processing companies. The funds will go towards helping support these industries while ensuring that COVID-19 measures can be followed for 14-day isolation of workers that are coming from outside of Canada.
The Government of Canada is acknowledging that the food supply chain was already dealing with labor shortages long before the COVID-19 pandemic, and that these issues will continue in the current climate. In the statement, the government goes on to say:
“In many regions across Canada, producing a variety of quality foods to be sold at affordable prices relies upon the contributions of experienced temporary foreign workers right from planting season to harvest—particularly for fresh fruits and vegetables. Fish, seafood and meat processing plants are also reliant on the addition of these workers.”
In fact, temporary foreign workers in the agricultural, food and fish processing sectors account for 60% of all workers in Canada under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. They play an essential role in the Canadian economy and approximately 50,000 to 60,000 workers come to Canada each year to work in these industries. This is why the government has continue to support temporary foreign workers by granting exemptions from travel restrictions into Canada for these workers, as long as they isolate for 14 days after arriving in Canada.
The enforcement of this 14 day isolation is not without its challenges, and the government hopes that the funds will help employers navigate the situation. Employers are required to pay workers for the full 14 days in isolation, along with providing transportation, access to food, and living accommodations. The government has agreed to provide employers with $1,500 per temporary foreign worker to help mitigate the required costs. These funds are granted on the condition that employers uphold their end of the bargain by ensuring that they are following COVID-19 mandates, including by not limited to the 14-day quarantine period upon arrival into the country.