Red Delicious apple harvest in Summerland, 2016. (Black Press Media file)

Red Delicious apple harvest in Summerland, 2016. (Black Press Media file)

Okanagan, Creston cherry and apple farms in need of workers

The worker shortage is due to the COVID-19 restrictions on international travel

Okanagan and Creston cherry and apple farms are abandoning some crops because they don’t have enough workers.

That’s according to the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association (BCFGA), which said the worker shortage is due to the COVID-19 restrictions on international and domestic travel, preventing temporary workers from coming into the region.

“The tree fruit industry and the Ministry of Agriculture are asking local workers to consider helping with the harvest so that food waste is reduced,” the association said in a release.

Cherry producers have reported to the BCFGA that the labour shortage is causing them to “run out of time” and thus, are unable to harvest all their fruit.

The Ministry of Agriculture has launched a new job portal on its site to help link local workers to local farms.

“We want to ensure that Okanagan workers and farmers are making use of the Farm Fish and Food Job Locator,” agricultural minister Lana Popham said.

“Local food is so important to food security, and increased use of the portal will help growers get the crop harvested in this year of COVID-19 challenges.”

Executive director of the B.C. Blueberry Council Anju Gill said the portal highlights the employment opportunities in agriculture.

“We appreciate any assistance to find workers as the farm labour market is very challenging during the pandemic,” he said.

Late season cherry varieties are being harvested in the Okanagan, Similkameen and Creston valleys in August. The early apple variety Sunrise will start harvest next week in the South Okanagan and move to the North Okanagan later in August.

For more information, visit the provincial job portal to get connected to local farms or call 778-363-3620.

READ: Orchardists face challenges from COVID-19 pandemic

READ: New cherry packing facility to open near Ellison Lake this weekend


Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
Email me at twila.amato@blackpress.ca
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