Okanagan fruit growers are happy that the BC government has lifted its temporary foreign worker quarantine program.
The Okanagan Valley has seen massive labor shortages over the past few years, resulting in massive crop losses.
“Everything depends on the workers and the weather,” said Karma Gill, owner of the farming Karma Fruit Company.
“Farmers always expect the weather to look good, everything looks good, and now that it can be a heavy cherry crop again, we need workers.”
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Gill said he welcomes the lifting of the quarantine program, but he still wants to see more flexible arrangements.
“Programs are difficult for farmers, farmers need easy programs. More staff is needed, “said Gill.
“I look up and think, ‘Why don’t they give me a visa for five years?'”
The BC Cherry Association agrees that it is time to withdraw the quarantine program, but is also grateful that the program was launched to prevent a possible COVID-19 outbreak.
“The BC government has made the right call to centralize quarantine. This has allowed us to really reduce the prevalence over the last few seasons. Vaccines have become quite readily available, I understand the decision to close quarantine at this time. It’s understandable, “said Sukhpal Ball, president of the BC Cherry Association.
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In a release, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food said, “With the relaxation of federal travel bans and 97 percent of incoming workers being fully vaccinated against COVID-19, BC’s temporary foreign worker quarantine program will end on Thursday, March 31, 2022.” .
“Incoming workers will travel directly to their farms and it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that Federal Quarantine requirements are met for those who have not been vaccinated or partially vaccinated.”
All foreign workers who have not been fully vaccinated will still have to remain in quarantine for two weeks.
Employers are responsible for arranging quarantine accommodation, meals and assistance, but government subsidies of up to $ 3,000 per quarantine worker are still available.
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