Poor weather and labour shortages are making life harder for B.C.’s blueberry growers, who are dealing with lower yields and a workforce reduction of more than 50 per cent this year.
Abbotsford blueberry grower Parm Bains: “In all my years, I have never seen a year like this. To have bad weather plus this labour shortage … is not something we have ever had to face.” Bains said farmers are trying to share workers, helping out those who are unable to find anyone to pick their berries, but “it is really tough.”
“With people not wanting to work because of CERB or concerns about the virus, plus fewer seasonal agriculture workers, the industry is really struggling,” said the owner of Westberry Farms.
Cool weather in spring and early summer negatively impacted pollination, while high water levels in the Fraser River caused flooding and seepage in many low-lying fields. The one-two punch will likely mean a smaller yield, although it’s still unclear how much less.
According to Ministry of Agriculture data from early July, about 5,000 temporary foreign workers have arrived in B.C. so far this year. That’s about half of the 10,000 foreign workers that are typically employed on farms across the province.