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Canada’s government is exempting foreign nationals who have committed to working in agriculture from COVID-19 travel bans.

The March 20 decision came after the Canadian Produce Marketing Association joined 20 other groups asking the prime minister to allow foreign agricultural workers to enter the country for seasonal work.

Canada relies on about 60,000 international farm workers, and estimates show about 10,000 in the country, according to a March 21 news release from the CPMA. That’s just a fraction of the workers needed to plant fruit and vegetable crops. 

“As we address this pandemic as a unified country, we must also focus our attention on food security,” Ron Lemaire, CPMA president, said in the release. “Public Safety Canada has identified the food sector as one of the ten critical infrastructures required in the National Strategy for Critical Infrastructure, and it is important that we ensure the functionality of the agriculture industry to feed Canadians.”

The agriculture groups joining the CPMA in asking for farm worker exemptions to the travel ban crafted a Temporary Foreign Worker Program COVID-19 Agri-food Risk Management Plan.

Among the proposals in the plant are:

Amend the travel ban on foreign travelers to exempt agricultural workers who qualify for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program;
Extend Labor Market Impact Assessments and work visas for workers already in Canada; and
Streamline worker transfers between operations.

Lemaire said the plan was developed to ensure the continuity of the agri-food supply.

The CPMA has a COVID-19 resource webpage for the Canadian industry. 

For more coronavirus coverage, check out our landing page on the topic here.

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