Province announces strategy to combat labour challenges in Ontario agri-food sector

WOODSTOCK — Ontario’s agriculture minister, Ernie Hardeman, and labour minister, Monte McNaughton, announced a strategy as an answer to labour shortages challenging the agri-food sector in the province during a virtual roundtable this past Monday.

The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) estimates a shortfall of 123,000 workers by 2029 in Canada due to retirements and the shrinking number of workers entering the agricultural sector.

In 2017, unfilled agricultural jobs cost the sector $2.9 billion in lost revenues, according to the CAHRC.

“Many of our partners in the agri-food sector have voiced their concerns about labour disruptions to our food processing and supply chain due to the pandemic and they shared the need for a labour strategy for agriculture and food processing,” Hardeman was quoted as saying in a May 10 press release.

Two programs are being funded with $812,000 of taxpayer dollars to target labour shortages.

Feeding Your Future, earmarked for $617,400, will provide virtual job matching services, and Food and Beverage Ontario will receive $195,000 to “implement a strategy that will address critical challenges facing the sector such as talent attraction and retention, skills development, and innovation,” the press release read.