Worker shortages cost BC producers $216 million in 2018, according to the detailed findings of a Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council study of the farm labour market in BC.
Preliminary findings from the report were released earlier this year, but details of the labour market in each province were just released this month. The findings indicate that 15,200 positions risk going unfilled by 2029, with the operations most at risk including orchards, vineyards, greenhouses and nurseries.
“The tree fruit and vine industry, will consistently see the largest gap between its labour requirements and the available domestic supply of workers,” the report states, noting that 6,300 positions could go unfilled by 2029, up from 5,500 in 2017.
Greenhouse and nursery operators will also see the biggest increase in hiring requirements, with the shortfall rising by 1,100 people over the next decade, to 5,100 in 2029 from 4,000 in 2017.
Together, the groups employ 47% of the domestic farm workforce, which currently totals 46,300.
“By 2029, just under one in three agriculture jobs in this province (30%) are at risk of going unfilled,” the report states.
A key barrier to hiring and retaining domestic workers is a perception of agricultural work as low-paid.
To address the shortfall in labour, many growers in these sectors hire foreign workers. Of the 10,600 foreign workers that worked BC farms in 2017, 96% were worked in these two sectors.
However, the report also suggests, “finding ways to communicate the benefits of agricultural work to a younger demographic could help to attract more young workers.”