HARRISTON — Rather than “temporary” labour, Mushrooms Canada says its member producers are looking for a permanent workforce.
“Mushroom farms do not need something temporary; we need a permanent solution for our labour shortage,” Mushrooms Canada Executive Vice President Ryan Koeslag said in an April 4 press release reacting to the federal government’s easing of some restrictions in the Temporary Foreign Worker program. “We will continue to advocate for a strong pathway to permanent residency, to allow more of our farm workers who have obtained skills and experience on Canadian farms to stay in Canada.”
The job vacancy rate has more than doubled on Canadian mushroom farms in the last 4 years and now stands at 12.3%. However, Mushrooms Canada says over one third of member producers report even higher job vacancies, reaching almost 40% in some cases.
The mushroom sector’s labour woes are part of a bigger crisis in the farm workforce. According to the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC), there were 16,500 job vacancies on Canadian farms in 2018, which is causing $2.9 billion in lost sales to the Canadian economy. That labour gap is forecast to nearly double, reaching a potential shortage of 123,000 people by 2029. Surveys also show that the labour shortage has been exacerbated and increased by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The labour shortage for Canadian agriculture is massive and continues to grow,” Koeslag said. “We need to fill this labour gap; we are glad that the government of Canada is moving forward with some solutions. These changes are a good first step forward.”
He said his organization also supports the new programs for Ukrainian temporary residents and family reunification through the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel. Member farms “have volunteered to do what they can to support Ukrainian refugees.”
Mushrooms Canada has offered the government 3 recommendations to streamline and prioritize the process of onboarding temporary foreign workers at farms.