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Labor shortages cost Canadian ag $35 billion in lost sales in 2022, report shows

New labour market data from the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) reveals that on-farm agriculture businesses lost an estimated $3.5 billion in sales in 2022 because they didn’t have the workers they needed.

This finding was revealed virtually at CAHRC’s Labour Market Information Summit as part of a comprehensive analysis of the Canadian agriculture sector’s labour market trends and challenges—information that will steer the future growth and sustainability of Canadian agriculture. The release of this data is part of a long-term initiative, updating CAHRC’s labour forecasting system.

The research and analysis, conducted by the Conference Board of Canada on behalf of CAHRC, also found the sector has an above-average vacancy rate of 7.4 per cent, with two in five employers saying they couldn’t find the workers they needed. Agriculture in Canada, including farm businesses, support services, and agricultural wholesalers, employed over 420,000 workers in 2022, nearly 25 per cent of them being foreign workers (including workers from the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program). According to the study, that’s an increase of more than 30 per cent since 2017.

“We cannot solve the issues facing our sector if we do not know exactly what they are and where they exist. That is why this new data is so important,” said Jennifer Wright, CAHRC’s Executive Director. “The information tells us there is an urgent need to boost labour supply and empower domestic and foreign workers to secure the industry’s future viability. CAHRC, as it works in partnership with industry, is committed to tackling these challenges head-on through the ongoing development of its resources and projects.”

Updating the labour forecasting system was made possible through funding from the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Workplace Solutions Program (SWSP) for our Growing the Agriculture Workforce of the Future: Cultivating Canada’s Post-Pandemic Recovery initiative. The SWSP helps key sectors of the economy implement solutions to address their current and emerging workforce needs.

The forecasting model utilizes a system powered by an extensive database for occupational groups, industries, predictors for 35 skills requirements and information from all provinces and territories. Data was also collected through surveys, interviews and focus groups with employers, workers, industry stakeholders, government agencies and academic institutions.

The updated forecasting system will support CAHRC’s National Workforce Strategic Plan—the Council’s bold vision and roadmap for enhancing the agriculture workforce’s supply, skills and retention rate.

In the coming weeks, CAHRC will be sharing more detailed findings with industry stakeholders, as well as key recommendations and insights into the current and projected labour supply and demand for the agriculture sector. This will include the distribution of reports on occupations, skills gaps, recruitment strategies, training opportunities and best practices for improving the working conditions and well-being of agricultural workers.

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