Coronavirus: Okanagan orchardists, growers facing uncertain future with temporary border closure

It’s been a cool start to spring in the Okanagan, but it’s still a critical time for agriculture in the valley.

However, news this week that Canada’s border has been closed to non-essential travelers because of coronavirus concerns is causing big concerns among area growers.

Agriculture in the Okanagan depends on around 7,500 migrant workers, the majority of which are from Mexico and Jamaica.

Seasonal workers are an important labour link in the food chain, so a proposal was submitted on Thursday to allow migrant workers into the country.

Lucas told Global News that “upon arrival, they would need to segregate and get on the buses to the farms. And then on the farms, we’re set up to isolate for two weeks.”

One former orchardist, though, says that’s not a good idea, citing substandard testing protocols in Mexico and Jamaica.

“I would like to see a moratorium on this program for at least this year,” said former orchardist Robert Hogue.

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