/The Sprout: Farmers seek local labourers left without work due to COVID-19

The Sprout: Farmers seek local labourers left without work due to COVID-19

Welcome to back to The Sprout. We hope you had a great weekend and are ready to enjoy National Prime Rib Day, a dish sometimes referred to as the “king of the meats.”

The Lead 

Local organizations are looking to pair farmers with critical labourers, helping to fill a gap left by migrant workers and find work for those left unemployed by the COVID-19 crisis.

Help Canada Grow is connecting locals who are looking for work with farmers who are worried temporary seasonal workers won’t be in Canada by the time crops need planting or harvesting. The business germinated at the start of April and co-founder Steve Martel, one of four entrepreneurs behind it, said they fielded more than 2,400 worker applications in the first two weeks.

“We’ve already started hiring a bit for internal needs,” he explained to CBC News. “We’ve got a group of individuals who will be joining us to screen calls, start doing one-on-one interviews, start reaching out and catering to farmers as well.”

As well, Elgin County Economic Development launched a new campaign to support people who are looking for work in London, Ont. who are currently unemployed or laid-off due to COVID-19.

Alan Smith, the general manager of ECED, said more than 20 people have actively engaged with a local farmer or agricultural company. Smith told 980 CFPL one of the goals of the campaign is to support people who are looking for work if they’re currently unemployed or laid-off due to COVID-19.

“They [can be] regular workforce or even students who would normally be employed.”

Global News has more.

Around Town

The Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard Bernadette Jordan announced $62.5 million of new assistance to the fish and seafood processing sector. This new Canadian Seafood Stabilization Fund will help businesses:

  • access short-term financing to pay for maintenance and inventory costs;
  • add storage capacity for unsold product;
  •  comply with new health and safety measures for workers;
  • support new manufacturing/automated technologies to improve productivity and quality of finished seafood products; and,
  • adapt products to respond to changing requirements and new market demands.

View the full release here.

In Canada 

COVID-19 has exacerbated concerns for Manitoba potato farmers who are now looking at another bleak harvest after two years of losses from challenging weather. Demand has dried up at processing plants across Canada and the United States due to the closure of restaurants and bars leaving producers sitting on hundreds of millions of kilograms of potatoes. One farmer says he still has ten million kilograms of potatoes in storage, — double what he had at this time last year, according to CBC News.

While Canada’s food supply chain now has to deal with too many potatoes, it may soon struggle with not enough beef, pork and, possibly, seafood.

Meat-packing plants in Alberta and Ontario responsible for a substantial portion of Canada’s beef are shut or running reduced lines as they grapple with COVID-19 outbreaks. As well A pork processing plant in Breslau, Ont., that accounts for about one-third of the federally inspected pork produced in Ontario shut down today for a week — also due to COVID-19, reports Global News.


Some British farmers, largely bereft of Romanian and Bulgarian labourers for this year’s harvest, have turned to Twitter, where offers of work were answered by furloughed chefs, hotel staff, students, landscape workers and musicians. Others still have a mountain to climb when it comes to recruiting workers, reports The Guardian.

In the U.S., the economic strain from COVID-19 has some farmers worried they might go under. As farmers await critical government aid, these challenges, coupled with concerns over labor shortages and global disruptions to farming and trade, could mean Americans will see less selection or more expensive food than they’re used to as well as a smaller variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, while consumers may lose access to locally-produced food, according to CNN.


The Kicker

In Belgium, where farmers are also being left with extra potatoes, the producer’s union Belgapom is urging people to eat more chips, or fries. About 750,000 tonnes of potatoes are piled up in Belgian warehouses, as the lockdown has sent orders plummeting.

Romain Cools of the potato growers’ union Belgapom presented it as a matter of survival, as a major export sector fears ruin during the coronavirus crisis.

“Let’s all eat chips twice a week, instead of just once,” Cools said.

BBC has more.

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