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CANADA - Reduced access to temporary foreign workers will impact the ability of Canadian meat processors to add value to their products according to the Canadian Meat Council, writes Bruce Cochrane.
Under changes made in June to Canada's temporary foreign worker program the number of foreign workers that make up the work force has been capped at 30 per cent, a $1,000 fee has been introduced for each application and the length of stay has been cut in half.
Ron Davidson, the director of international trade, government and media relations with the Canadian Meat Council, says these temporary foreign workers are needed to supplement Canadian workers.
Ron Davidson-Canadian Meat Council:
Many of them do what we call show stopper jobs in the plants.They are positions which are early on in the process.
We have to have these jobs done and these jobs at the front of the process may support four or five jobs in further processing later on in the plant.
If you are going to operate a plant in a competitive basis and our industry in Canada is open, you can bring pork into this country from outside it with zero tariff, we have to be competitive so we need to operate at capacity which we're not doing now.
Plants that are not operating at capacity and are short of workers, they have to do the basic jobs so what they have to cut, they cut the value added.
They may not be deboning, they may not be saving offals or specialty meats for some of the markets that we have abroad and in a low margin industry like ours when you aren't able to do the value added work you put the whole industry at risk.
This isn't something that affects only the processors.
The producers are extremely concerned that if there is a reduction in processing capacity it's going to have an impact right back on the farm.
Mr Davidson notes there are hundreds of openings at Canadian processing plants but a shortage of Canadians willing to take these jobs.
He says many of these openings are in urban centres and its even more difficult to recruit workers in rural areas.
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