Farm labour shortfall expected to soar

Prairie grain growers may soon be desperate for on-farm workers because a new report predicts a labour shortfall of more than 17,000 in Canada.

The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council, in a study released this morning, said Canada’s grain and oilseed industry employed 55,800 people in 2014.

Between 2014 and 2025, labour demand in the sector is expected to increase 0.6 percent annually.

At the same time, the pool of domestic workers for grain and oilseed jobs is expected to shrink by 1.4 percent per year, mostly because of retirements.

So, by 2025:

•    The labour shortage in grain and oilseed production is predicted to reach 17,400, compared to 5,700 in 2014.

•    In Saskatchewan, the shortfall is expected to expand by 4,600 over the next decade.

•    In Alberta, it’s expected to grow by 3,500 people.

CAHRC pointed to several factors to explain the labour shortage:

• Almost one in three Canadians employed in the grain and oilseed industry are expected to retire by 2025.

• The industry doesn’t have access to the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, which supplies foreign employees for fruit and vegetable production in Canada.

• It can be difficult for grain and oilseed producers to hire employees through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

The lack of labour is already having an impact. CAHRC estimated that the shortage of 5,700 employees in 2014 caused a $569 million loss in product sales.

This fall the council is publishing a series of reports on labour issues in Canada’s agri-food industry to highlight the challenges and remind the federal government of the importance of agriculture. The reports are based on surveys of agri-food employers, webinars and focus groups with industry reps.

Agri-food leaders are hoping the government makes it easier for farmers and food processors to attract and retain immigrant employees.

The Liberal government is amending the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. It’s expected to announce changes sometime in December.

Contact robert.arnason@producer.com

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