BC farmers rang up a record $3.9 billion in farm cash receipts in 2019, a 13% increase over 2018. The difference worked out to $462 million, the majority of which came from the province’s newly legal cannabis crop.
The province’s licensed cannabis growers saw sales of $361.5 million, up $300 million from 2018. This pushed the crop to third spot among the more than 200 commodities produced on BC farms.
Dairy held the top spot with receipts of $683 million in 2019, up $47 million from 2018. It ranked second in terms of revenue growth, followed by beef. Cattlemen saw revenues rise by $25 million in 2019 to total $272 million.
On a percentage basis, cannabis was the fastest-growing sector, followed by field vegetables with 12% growth. Field vegetable producers saw revenues of $166 million last year.
While the province framed the growth as grounds for resilience during the current pandemic, the woes of the cannabis sector and labour shortages are barriers to growth.
Several cannabis producers have scaled back operations over the past year and some facilities are being marketed at significantly reduced prices. Meanwhile, producers in all sectors are facing challenges securing skilled workers to run production systems and manual labour to tend and harvest this year’s crop.
To address the labour challenges, the province has spent more than $10 million to date to accommodate incoming seasonal workers in line with COVID-19 protocols and promote opportunities for domestic workers via the BC Farm, Fish and Food Job Connector portal.
The province is also supporting growth in the various fast-growing sectors. Grants of $500,000 towards a $1.75 million craft cannabis farm in Williams Lake and a new meat processing facility in the Kootenay Boundary region were announced last month, as well as the approval of Class D slaughter licences for three new regions to facilitate local meat production.