New COVID-19 testing requirements for travellers entering Canada could hinder more than would-be pandemic tourists. They could also leave tomato, pepper, and other greenhouse vegetable farmers in B.C. scrambling for workers.
Temporary foreign workers, most of them from Mexico, are essential to B.C.'s $300-million greenhouse vegetable industry, with about 500 usually coming to work in the sector each year. Last week, strict new rules that require international travellers entering Canada to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken in the last 72 hours came into effect, leaving dozens of B.C.-bound agricultural workers stranded in Mexico.
“I've had a couple of my members saying, ‘I wish I knew (about the pre-travel test rule) before I planted, I might not have planted,’ because it does make it very worrisome that you may not get your workers in,” she said, noting that growers have just put in the majority of their 2021 crops, which will ripen in the fall.
The uncertainty the new requirements bring are a sharp contrast for the industry that otherwise fared relatively well during the pandemic.