One of the largest producers of lettuce in Quebec was forced to destroy his field of lettuce with a shot of a tractor because of its dozens of foreign workers are not here to do the harvest.
“We were forced to plough a field full of lettuce because we lack a good twenty mexican workers, and a dozen are in quarantine. We must destroy everything with our tractors, ” sighed Clermont Riendeau, chairman of the Potager Riendeau, in St-Rémi, in Montérégie.
In Quebec, barely 65 % of foreign workers are expected to have arrived, according to the Fondation des entreprises en recrutement de main-d’oeuvre agricole étrangère, also called the FARM in Quebec.
“More than 75 % of Guatemalans (4800) arrived in Quebec, but on the Mexican side, the figure melts at 57 % (3533),” said its director general, Fernando Borja.
“There are delays that we are constantly trying to solve. We are aware of it “, admitted to the Newspaper the ambassador Alejandro Estivill Castro, consul general of Mexico in Montreal.
According to the diplomat, these delays can be partly explained because the consulate of Canada in Mexico city and the mexican authorities are severely affected by the pandemic COVID-19.
Result, farmers such as Clermont Riendeau of Saint-Rémi must sacrifice some of their fields for lack of labor.
“If we had our world, we could do our weeding, but we don’t have enough arms, so we must make a cross on more than a half-million dollars of the harvest,” says the one who has asked his 40 guatemalan workers arrived here to take care of her other fields of lettuce and onions.
To make matters worse, the price of lettuce is in decline, ” adds the farmer. The fund has lost almost six million since the beginning of the crisis, ” he observes.
Worse still, explains Clermont Riendeau, not only he’s missing a good twenty mexican workers, but he must pay part of the bill salt of more than 60 000 $ to those who are quarantined in hotel rooms that he rented in Montreal.
This year, thirty of the workers who will have been in quarantine would have cost a good 37 $ 800 in hotel costs and 25 580 $ in salary, a portion of which is absorbed by the government of Quebec.
In Agro, in Quebec, there is concern for the farmers as Clermont.
“It’s extremely worrying. Not to mention the heat wave. Water, it is complex, it is not so simple. People think that it is enough to open the valves. This is not how it works. It should be the workers “, underlines its president, André Michaud.
Lack of manpower
“It is clear that there is a lack of workforce because all of the temporary workers from Mexico and Guatemala have not been able to make in Quebec “, recognizes the director-general of the Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA), Charles-Felix Ross.
In the same breath, the top union leader calls on farmers to appeal to the workers here so that they can come give them a boost.
“There are 2000 eligible Quebecers to our program. It has a bank of thousands of applications, so we invite growers to make use of this labour “, he insisted.
Lack of availability
When asked to Clermont Riendeau why farmers like him do not seem to appeal to the québec workforce, he countered that he expects it.
“If there were any available, I would take them tomorrow morning, but there isn’t. I have a few-one to three days a week, but there isn’t “, dropped by the farmer, who has not been a case of COVID-19 on his farm.
For his part, the CEO of Groupe Agéco, Isabelle Charron, believes that the nature of the work may explain why some are reluctant to do this.
“These are physical tasks, with the heat, it’s still demanding. It is long hours. There are a number of Quebecers who have realized, after a few hours in the field, that this was not done for them, ” she said.