Canada’s agricultural sector is facing a significant labour shortage, as many Canadian farmers retire and fewer people enter the industry. According to a recent report by RBC, Canada needs 30,000 immigrant farmers over the next ten years to address the shortfall in the workforce.
The Labour Shortage in Canada’s Agricultural Industry
Canadian farmers are getting older, and the number of farmers is decreasing. Approximately 40% of Canadian farmers will retire by 2033, resulting in a shortage of 24,000 general workers. Additionally, 66% of farmers still need a succession plan for their operations, leaving the future of farmland in doubt.
Canada’s Agricultural Skills Crisis
The RBC report states that Canada’s agricultural skills crisis is already one of the worst in the world. Canada has one of the highest skills shortages in food production compared to other primary food exporting nations, trailing only the United States and the Netherlands.
Temporary Foreign Worker Program
The report notes that the Canadian government is aggressively using the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) to attract foreign low-skilled labour to Canadian farmers struggling to find farm workers. The TFWP allows foreign workers to come to work in Canada in various industries, including agriculture.
Pathway to Permanent Residency
The report recommends that the Canadian government create a pathway to permanent residency to address the labour shortage in the farming sector.
RBC Report’s Key Findings
The RBC report’s key findings include:
- By 2033, 40% of Canadian farm operators will retire, placing agriculture on the cusp of one of the most significant labour and leadership transitions in the country’s history.
- Over the same period, a shortfall of 24,000 general farms, nursery, and greenhouse workers are expected to emerge.
- 66% of producers still need a succession plan in place, leaving the future of farmland in doubt.
These gaps loom at a time when Canada’s agricultural workforce needs to evolve to include skills like data analytics and climate-smart practices that enable us to grow more food with fewer emissions.
Recommendations for Addressing the Labour Shortage
The RBC report recommends a three-point plan for labour growth in the sector:
- Increase immigration of farm operators by 30,000 over the next decade.
- Promote agricultural education across colleges and universities to attract new students.
- Accelerate the adoption of autonomous and mechanised solutions on farms.
Other Countries’ Strategies
Other nations, such as Japan and New Zealand, are rapidly deploying national strategies to tackle similar challenges. They offer incentives to farm operators who become more autonomous or unlock pathways for skilled foreign workers and new farmers to enter their industries.
The labour shortage in Canada’s agricultural sector is a significant concern that requires immediate attention. By implementing the recommendations in the RBC report, Canada can establish a digitally-savvy agricultural workforce needed to make our country a global Leader in low-carbon, sustainable food production.
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