WINNIPEG, Manitoba/CHICAGO (Reuters) - Mandatory coronavirus quarantines of seasonal foreign workers in Canada could hurt that country’s fruit and vegetable output this year, and travel problems related to the pandemic could also leave U.S. farmers with fewer workers than usual.
Foreign labor is critical to farm production in both countries, where domestic workers shun the hard physical labor and low pay.
In Canada, where farms rely on 60,000 temporary foreign workers, their arrivals are delayed by initial border restrictions and grounded flights. Once they arrive, the federal government requires them to be isolated for 14 days with pay, unable to work.
In the United States, nearly 250,000 foreign guest workers, mostly from Mexico, help harvest fruit and vegetables each year. The State Department is processing H-2A visas for farm workers with reduced staffing, though some companies are still having a hard time getting workers in on time.