Agricultural foreign worker decline becomes global issue

By Ashley Williams contact

- Last updated on GMT

The issue is affecting farms across the world
The issue is affecting farms across the world
The loss of foreign-born workers in the agricultural sector is occurring on a global scale, GlobalMeatNews can reveal.

The National Pork Producers Council in the US revealed in a study last week that a tighter supply of foreign-born workers would reduce overall demand for workers as production costs increase, resulting in a decrease of agricultural output as farmers abandon labour-intensive operations.

The Danish Agriculture and Food Council (Landbrug & Fødevarer) told GlobalMeatNews​ that the supply of foreign workers from EU countries has fallen drastically since mid-2016 and Danish agriculture and food companies are very dependent on foreign workers.

Part of the decline can be attributed to the fact that countries across the EU, especially eastern European countries, report growing labour shortages​,” said Karen Hækkerup, Landbrug & Fødevarer CEO.

Competition for European labour has thus been taken and, for example, Poland is making targeted efforts to bring foreign Polish citizens home to Poland. A similar development is also expected to occur in other EU countries where Danish companies attract labour​.”

Hækkerup added that if this development occurred, then companies would lose orders and fail to boost exports.

Our companies are in the situation that if they do not get the labour they need, it can affect both our GDP and the companies’ productivity​,” Hækkerup added. “If the eastern Europeans go home, we'll need someone else to come in and take those jobs​.”

Importance of foreign workers

Meanwhile, the Canadian Meat Council said it needed the Government to recognise the importance of foreign workers and broaden the immigration system to include more trade and semi-skilled workers.

The meat processing industry is experiencing a serious employment shortage with over 1,500 job vacancies in rural meat packing plants​,” said Canadian Meat Council senior director Marie-France MacKinnon.

We provide long-term opportunities for foreign workers willing to contribute to our industry and, in turn, the broader Canadian economy. Our government is signing important trade agreements, such as CPTPP ​[the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership]. However, under current labour rules and related labour shortage, the industry cannot deliver enough product. If the current TFW ​[temporary foreign worker] policies remain in place, Canadian meat exports will be unable to grow to meet new market demands​.

Over 700 temporary foreign workers are trying to find a pathway to permanent residency currently in meat packing plants across Canada and our industry needs even more to work at full capacity​.”

The issue is also affecting the Australasian area as Australia’s Meat Industry Council (AMIC) CEO Patrick Hutchinson told GlobalMeatNews​ that there was a multitude of issues they needed to face with regards to foreign workers.

Foreign workers are exceptionally important to the agricultural sector​,” Hutchinson said. “We’ve been working with our government on the structures and policies that they have around the access to foreign workers. Our issue remains that our government has reassessed the structures to provide more opportunities for local people to take on work in our industry​.

That being said, getting those people to be able to do that work can be quite challenging and especially with Australia, where we find very remote areas as opposed to the US,” ​Hutchinson added. “We are a large user of imported labour and continual access to that is vital for us to fill any skills or people gaps that we have​.”

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