Farmers' planting season delayed while foreign workers forced to self-isolate
LAKEVILLE, N.S. -- Hundreds of international farm workers arrived in Nova Scotia earlier this week to assist with the planting and growing seasons.
At Charles Keddy's farm he grows nursery crops, such as raspberries, and sweet potatoes.
He ships all across North America and while planting season is now underway, but many farmers like Keddy are behind schedule two-to-three weeks.
Deadlines are fast approaching and some products grown here are also needed by other North American farmers.
"(It's) so that they can have the fruit to harvest next year," Keddy said. "It's difficult to do that with the labour shortage."
The labour shortage is brought on by COVID 19-related travel restrictions.
Dalhousie University food security expert Sylvain Charlebois says Canadian farmers normally hire about 60,000 foreign workers.
"We're likely to get, if we're lucky, about 35,000," Charlebois said.
Keddy now has 14 Jamaican workers at his farm, but they have to self-isolate for 14 days before they can help with production.
"In a normal bunk house, we'd normally have 12 men in, we have seven in each of two bunk houses in order for them to be able to social distance," Keddy said.
Charlebois says a worker shortage .could slow crop growth and Maritime grocery shoppers this summer may feel the impact.
"I don't think we'll be out of food, but it will get more expensive," he said.
Keddy says one obvious solution is to hire more local workers.
"We have 12 to 14 local people on payroll trying to get early spring work done," Keddy said.
Keddy says that, typically, not enough local workers apply and hiring international workers has proven to be a successful practice.
"Whatever it takes to get it done," Keddy said. "It puts dependability into food supply."
Keddy also says many of his international workers are loyal employees who have worked here for more than 25 years.