Okanagan fruit growers happy B.C.'s foreign worker quarantine program is ending

WATCH: Canada's travel rules change for fully vaccinated travellers

Okanagan fruit growers are happy the B.C. government has lifted its temporary foreign worker quarantine program.

The Okanagan Valley has seen a massive shortage of workers in the past couple of years, leading to large losses of crops.

“Everything depends on the workers and the weather,” said Karma Gill, owner of Farming Karma Fruit Company.

“The farmer is always hoping the weather looks good, everything looks good, and now it might be a heavy cherry crop again, we need the workers.”

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Gill said the lifting of the quarantine program is welcome, but he would still like to see a more streamlined system in place.

“The program is hard for the farmer, the farmers need the easier program. More workers are needed,” said Gill.

“I look and think, ‘Why do they not give visas for five years?’”

The BC Cherry Association agrees it’s time to lift the quarantine program, but is also thankful the program was in place to prevent possible COVID-19 outbreaks.

“The BC government made the right call in centralizing quarantining. It allowed us to really minimize outbreaks these past couple seasons. The vaccines have been quite readily available, I do understand the decision to stop the quarantine at this point. It does make sense,” said BC Cherry Association’s president, Sukhpal Bal.

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In a release, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food said, “With the easing of federal travel restrictions and 97 per cent of incoming workers being fully vaccinated against COVID-19, B.C.’s Temporary Foreign Worker Quarantine Program will end on Thursday, March 31, 2022.

“Arriving workers will travel directly to their farms and it will be the employer’s responsibility to ensure federal quarantine requirements are met for those who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.”

All foreign workers who are not fully vaccinated are still required to quarantine for two weeks.

Employers are responsible for the provision of quarantine accommodations, food and support, but a government subsidy of up to $3,000 per quarantined worker is still available.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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