B.C.'s agriculture industry is facing a major worker shortage this year as the long-term ramifications of COVID-19 take hold.
The pandemic has triggered a shortfall of 6,000 to 8,000 seasonal agricultural labourers provincewide, threatening a backlog in local food production.
"COVID-19 has meant there is no such thing as business as usual — it has disrupted the workforce," said Agriculture Minister Lana Popham at a news conference Thursday.
That's why the B.C. government has announced it is launching an online job portal to match farmers with workers in an attempt to fast-track hiring.
The website, called the B.C. Farm, Fish and Food Job Connector, is designed to be a quick and easy tool to attract new employees in time for the summer.
B.C. berry growers are facing a serious labour shortage this season due to COVID-19- Parm Bains, owner of Westberry Farms
"We recognize the workforce challenges ... and are helping to address the need to establish a secure agricultural labour force so we can generate economic activity and maintain food security in our communities," Popham said.
The site will connect to agriculture, food processing, aquaculture and marine fisheries jobs posted on Work BC, industry sites and the B.C. Food and Beverage websites.
The site will showcase current job vacancies throughout the province, including those for crop and seafood harvesters, food processing and farm workers, agrologists, large machinery operators and marketing specialists.
Farmers desperate for labour
B.C. farms, ranches, seafood and food processing companies generated a record $15-billion in revenue in 2018.
With the summer season quickly approaching, farmers are getting nervous about being able to fill the significant coronavirus-shaped hole in their workforce.
"B.C. berry growers are facing a serious labour shortage this season due to COVID-19," said Parm Bains, owner of Westberry Farms in Abbotsford.
He's hopeful the new government portal will be able to connect him with much-needed potential employees.
"The berry industry urgently needs seasonal workers interested in harvesting and packing jobs," he said in a statement. "Many farms also have longer-term positions available in field and crop management and quality control, and this site could connect us to those people."
Six-hundred positions have already been posted on the website in the agriculture, seafood and food and beverage sectors.
Jobs are available in more than 30 communities in the Fraser Valley, the Okanagan, Metro Vancouver, Vancouver Island, the Kootenays and northern B.C.