Daniel Millan, a spokesman for the Mexican Foreign Ministry, stated on Tuesday that, after several outbreaks of coronavirus among agricultural workers in Canadian cultivation fields were reported, Mexico had decided to temporarily restrict the travel of migrant workers to the North American country while Canada reviews its prevention protocols and the health situation there improves.
"This will be a big problem," said Joelle Faulkner, the executive director of Area One Farms, an alternative asset management firm in Toronto. "We may have enough labor for spring, but we may not have enough labor for fall."
Canada's fruit and vegetable industry is dependent on the arrival of more than 60,000 migrant workers, mostly from Mexico, Jamaica, and Guatemala. This year, travel interruptions during the pandemic have already delayed the arrival of some migrants to agricultural fields. As a result, half of Ontario's asparagus crops couldn't be harvested due to labor shortages.
"This will affect consumers, either because there will be a shortage of Canadian agricultural products on the market or because prices will increase," stated Rebecca Lee, executive director of the Canadian Council on Horticulture.
Mexican authorities have informed the Canadian industry that the country intends to prevent workers from traveling to farm fields that have been affected by outbreaks, Lee said.
There are at least three major outbreaks in Ontario with more than 280 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to a report by the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. According to information provided by the group, the two migrant workers from Mexico who died from COVID-19 had worked in fields in Windsor.