‘It’s been a great program’:New foreign worker requirements help Okanagan fruit industry

Biometric requirements began in late 2018, and will have long-term advantages for workers in Kelowna

With the start of spring inching closer, the Okanagan will soon welcome back close to 4,500 seasonal workers to B.C. farms.

It will be the second year since Canada implemented biometric information requirements for foreign workers and so far the program hasn’t caused any of the shortages or complications feared by the fruit industry that heavily relies on agricultural workers from Mexico and the Caribbean.

“It was certainly a bit of a scramble last year, but it worked well in the end,” said BC Fruit Growers’ Association’s Glen Lucas about the new requirements.

“Everyone worked really head to make it smooth including the federal government, Canadian Border Services and of course the Mexican government.”

READ MORE: ‘Share the love for your neighbourhood’: Kelowna looking for creative improvement ideas

READ MORE: Okanagan Spring Wine Festival tickets now on sale

The new biometric information includes photos and fingerprints for workers looking for work in Canada. Once completed, workers have 10 year permits and are not needed to apply for the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) each year.

For the near 80 per cent of workers who return each year, the addition of biometric information in the program will be beneficial for both B.C. farms and the workers.

“It’s been a great program,” said Lucas.

“Without the SAWP, we would have to downsize. The demanding physical and outdoor labour doesn’t get enough local workers.”

Lucas said that the biometric information will allow for the smooth return of workers each year and shows that the program is very desirable for the workers.

READ MORE: Secondary dwellings in North Okanagan’s ALR not banned: Ministry

Seasonal workers coming to Okanagan farms mostly help in the cherry and apple markets, but BC Fruit Growers also helps liaison workers with the local grape grower industry.

Lucas said that the entire agriculture industry in B.C. and the Okanagan relies on seasonal workers since the number of Canadian workers, usually from Quebec, has slowed down over the past few years.

BC Fruit Growers expect a fluid start to the spring and to the season and will continue to offer full-time safety and orientation for both Canadian and foreign workers.

“We want them to be successful and come back,” said Lucas.

“We find that that investment in the workers increase the work rate and worker satistfaction.”

To report a typo, email:


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

KGH Foundation establishes COVID-19 response fund to support frontline workers

Doctors, nurses and staff have been challenged to pivot operations to prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic

General exposure to public low after inmate tests positive for COVID-19: Interior Health

The Okanagan Correctional Centre inmate is receiving appropriate care

Children of frontline workers to return to Central Okanagan schools

Approximately 500 K-6 students will return as 25 schools open doors on Monday

Four vehicle crash stalls traffic in Glenmore

The four-vehicle fender bender took place about 4:15 p.m.

COVID-19: Central Okanagan fire departments only responding to serious medical calls

The new directive from Dr. Bonnie Henry does not change the public safety response of firefighters

VIDEO: ‘Used gloves and masks go in the garbage,’ says irked B.C. mayor

Health officials have said single-use gloves won’t do much to curb the spread of COVID-19

Sex workers face new risks during COVID-19 pandemic

‘Desperation has kicked in’ for vulnerable, undocumented workers unable to access help

Unclear if Cowichan couple refusing to self-isolate will face penalty

No fines or charges have been laid to date, including Cowichan couple who won’t self isolate

Food support continues for Okanagan students despite school closures

Kids aren’t going hungry thanks to Kal Rotary and Starfish Backpack program

Emergency services respond to numerous incidents on Highway 1

Today there were multiple semi truck crashes on Highway 1 and a collision by the hospital

Large item collection events cancelled in Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen

Concerns about spread of COVID-19 led to decision to cancel collection events

COVID-19: Postponed surgeries will be done, B.C. health minister says

Contract with private surgical clinic to help clear backlog

Black Press Media ad sparks discussion about value of community newspapers

White Rock resident hopes front-page note shines light on revenue loss during COVID-19 crisis

Organizers hoping to hold Summerland Fall Fair

COVID-19 pandemic may result in changes to agricultural celebration

Most Read