Travel restrictions are coming to BC this week, and that could put a chill on farmersâ ability to access domestic labour.
Specifics of the new restrictions have yet to be unveiled, but the province has said theyâll limit travel between health regions. Signs will be posted at the Alberta border asking non-residents not to enter.
This concerns growers, who have been scrambling to arrange worker arrivals during the ongoing limits on international flights and now face a new round of domestic restrictions.
âIt definitely is a concern,â says BC Agriculture Council executive director Reg Ens. âWeâre almost in the same place that we were last year.â
Ens says industry expects incoming domestic workers will be permitted entry as farming is considered essential work, but notes that some may choose not to travel due to shifting restrictions.
âItâs definitely going to be challenge,â he says.
The province has not provided guarantees regarding the status of farm workers.
BC agriculture minister Lana Popham told Country Life in BC last week that the situation remained fluid but she didnât expect the province to implement travel restrictions in âthe foreseeable future.â However, she was quick to support the proposed orders this week.
âOur focus is on protecting British Columbians using measures that get at the source of the problems,â she said in a Facebook post noting that âunnecessary leisure travelâ was the target.
Agriculture staff directed questions regarding domestic workers toÂ BC Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth.
Farnworthâs staff provided a statement to Country Life in BC that did not mention farmworkers. Rather it said, âWe are not interested in disrupting commuters and people going about their lives.â
Ens, for his part, hopes the temporary nature of the restrictions, set to run until the end of May, will have minimal effect.
âI believe most of those domestic workers start to come in June,â he says. âHopefully weâre far enough along in the vaccination process and things have settled down a little bit so that has opened up a bit by then.â
The province plans to meet with industry on Friday to discuss the situation.
With files from Ronda Payne