Mexico halts Canadian workers as virus hits farms

Global Mexico SM Farm

Mexico has temporarily stopped agri-cultural workers travelling to Canada after outbreaks of Covid-19 on farms.

The Mexican foreign ministry said the restrictions on the workers would stay in place while Canada reviewed its prevention protocols.

More than 60,000 migrant workers, most from Mexico, are required by the Canadian fruit and vegetable industry at harvest time, with others coming from Jamaica and Guatemala.

Travel interruptions during the pandemic have already delayed the arrival of some migrants to agricultural fields – resulting in half of Ontario’s asparagus crops not being harvested for want of labour.

This latest blow is a result of reports that migrant workers are catching coronavirus while working in Canadian fields.

Rebecca Lee, executive director of the Canadian Council on Horticulture, said the labour shortage would hit both farmers and consumers.

She said: “This will affect consumers, either because there will be a shortage of Canadian agricultural products on the market or because prices will increase.”

The Mexican restrictions apply to farms with Covid-19 outbreaks or where the treatment or housing of workers is an issue, with southern Ontario – where 300 migrant workers have been infected with coronavirus and two have died – the worst affected.

Prince Edward Island’s (PEI) Federation of Agriculture, however, has stressed it still intends to bring in more workers from Mexico.

So far this year it has only been able to recruit approximately half of the labour force it requires.

Robert Godfrey, the federation’s executive director, said: “It’s certainly an issue for Canada, but Prince Edward Island is going to be able to receive some more temporary foreign workers from Mexico.”

Last year, 1,400 temporary foreign workers were issued with work permits for PEI.

Foreign workers entering PEI are kept in quarantine for 14 days before being moved on to farms.

Mr Godfrey said: “We’ve done very well

in quarantining the disease, so I think that it’s unique here. I’ll knock on wood saying this … temporary foreign workers coming into PEI, once they hit a farm there, they’re safe.”

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