Exploring the Workforce Dynamics in Canadian Agriculture

Apr 24, 2024

By Jean-Paul McDonald

Canada's agriculture sector plays a crucial role not only in feeding the nation but also in bolstering the economy. In 2022, the sector produced a staggering $118.6 billion worth of goods, with $36.8 billion exported internationally. But behind these impressive numbers is a diverse workforce that ensures the wheels of agriculture keep turning. 

A significant portion of this workforce is seasonal. In 2022, nearly half of the 278,373 individuals employed in this sector worked from May to November, the primary growing season. This seasonal nature of work reflects the fluctuating demand for labour in farming activities, which peak during the planting and harvest periods in Canada. 

The role of temporary foreign workers (TFWs) is particularly noteworthy. These workers are essential, especially when local labour is insufficient to meet peak seasonal demands. In 2022, the agriculture sector employed 64,660 TFWs, marking a 6.0% increase from the previous year.  

They represented nearly one in four agricultural workers in Canada, with a significant number working in Ontario's robust greenhouse, nursery, and floriculture industries. 

Ontario reported 79,852 agricultural workers in 2022, the province is known not just for its volume of workers but also for its substantial agricultural output, generating $21.8 billion in farm cash receipts in the same year. 

However, securing enough labour remains a challenge, evidenced by the 14,611 job vacancies in the sector in 2022. The reliance on TFWs underscores a critical dependency on external labour sources, predominantly from Mexico, Guatemala, and Jamaica, to sustain agricultural production. 

As Canada continues to navigate the complexities of agricultural labour, the importance of these workers cannot be overstated.  

They ensure that Canadian tables are graced with fresh produce year-round and contribute significantly to the nation’s economy through their hard work and dedication.  

The ongoing management of this labour force is key to maintaining the stability and growth of agriculture in Canada, reflecting a sector that is as dynamic as it is essential. 

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