Canada’s Agricultural Sector Increasingly Reliant On Immigrants

Canada’s Agricultural Sector Increasingly Reliant On Immigrants
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Immigrants to Canada are playing an increasingly important role in bringing food to tables of Canadians and the door is open to allow more newcomers to fill these Canada jobs.

A Statistics Canada report released Friday, The socioeconomic snapshot of Canada’s evolving farm population, 2021, notes immigrants are playing an increasingly important role in Canada’s agricultural sector.

“The immigrant farm population plays a role in shaping Canadian agriculture. Immigrants contribute to the ethnocultural diversity of the farm population,” notes the report.

“This is important because a diversified farm population provides a broad range of skills, experiences, perspectives and cultural influences that can boost the potential for increased productivity within the agricultural sector.”

In 2021, immigrants made up 6.9 per cent of Canada’s total farm population, up slightly from 6.8 per cent in 2001. By comparison, the proportion of immigrants in Canada’s total population increased from 18.7 per cent in 2001 to 23.1 per cent in 2021.

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On Canadian farms, less than four per cent of workers are part of racialized groups, with only 3.7 per cent of these workers being from visible minorities in 2021, far less than the 26.6 per cent of their representation in Canadian society.

“Among the 21,910 people in the farm population (in 2021) who self-identified as being from a racialized group, over half, or 53 per cent, were South Asian, followed by Chinese, at 15.8 per cent,” notes the report.

Blacks and Latinos each comprised 5.9 per cent of farm workers in Canada in 2021.

Although immigrants are still a relatively small percentage of the agricultural sector in Canada, these businesses offer up many ways for foreign nationals to immigrate to Canada and get their permanent residence here.

Canadian Farms Facing Shortage Of 5,900 Workers Over Next Eight Years

The need is certainly there. Canada is expected to suffer a labour shortage over the next eight years with too few agricultural service contractors and farm supervisors to do the tough job of ensuring enough food is produced.

The federal job-hunting and career-planning Job Bank website is forecasting a shortfall of 5,900 of these workers from now to 2031.

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”New job openings arising from expansion demand and replacement demand are expected to total 19,800 , while 13,900 new job seekers arising from school leavers, immigration and mobility are expected to be available to fill them,” states Job Bank.

“Although this occupational group has had a balanced market in recent years, projected job openings are expected to be substantially higher to job seekers, creating a shortage of workers over the 2022 – 2031 period.”


Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced earlier this year Canada’s Express Entry system would begin targeting 82 jobs in healthcare, technology, trades, transport and agriculture this summer, including agricultural services contractors and farm supervisors.

Under changes announced at the end of May, the Express Entry streams, including the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program, Federal Skilled Trades (FST) program and Canadian Experience Class (CEC), as well as parts of the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP) is now be more responsive to labour market needs.

Candidates need at least six months of continuous work experience in Canada or abroad within the past three years in one of these occupations to be eligible, experience that can have been gained while working in Canada as temporary foreign workers with a work permits or as an international student with a student visa.

Agri-Food Pilot Opened Up, Cap Ditched, To Bring In More Farm Workers

The demand for farm workers in Canada is getting so serious that Ottawa has already ditched the cap on the number of workers who can apply for each occupation under the Agri-Food Pilot (AFP) and has extended it for another two years.

Under the AFP, 2,750 applicants already working in Canada every year in the country’s agriculture and agri-food industry gain permanent residency. In 2021, that industry sector had exports of nearly $82.2 billion, including raw agricultural materials, fish and seafood, and processed foods.

That makes Canada the fifth-largest exporter of agri-food and seafood in the world, exporting to over 200 countries. The industry is responsible for one in nine jobs in Canada and employed 2.1 million people in 2021.

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Launched in May 2020, the AFP is now slated to run until May 14, 2025 and continue to help facilitate the transition of experienced workers in agricultural and food industries to permanent residence in Canada.

Keith Currie, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, has said labour shortages are one of the most significant challenges facing the agriculture sector in Canada and the country needs programs like the AFP which support the long-term needs of the agri-food sector.

“We are pleased to see some greater flexibility in the program and look forward to working with the government to ensure farm workers have clear and accessible pathways to permanent residence,” he said.

Canadian immigration is expected to soon announce changes to the pilot, including:

  • expanding open work permit access to family members of all participants in the AFP, regardless of the participant’s job skill level;
  • allowing unions to attest to a candidate’s work experience, as an alternative to employer reference letters;
  • giving applicants residing in Canada the option to either meet the job offer requirement, including the median wage requirement for the job offer, or the education requirement, including educational credential assessment verification, and;
  • accepting work experience gained under an open work permit for vulnerable workers, giving more workers an opportunity to qualify.

The occupations and industries eligible under the pilot include:

Meat product manufacturing

  • retail butchers
  • industrial butchers
  • farm supervisors and specialized livestock workers
  • food processing labourers

Greenhouse, nursery and floriculture production, including mushroom production

  • farm supervisors and specialized livestock workers
  • general farm workers
  • harvesting labourers

Animal production, excluding aquaculture

  • farm supervisors and specialized livestock workers
  • general farm workers

Since the francophone province of Quebec sets its own immigration programs under the Canada-Quebec Accord, the AFP does not apply there and candidates must intend to live and work outside of Quebec after obtaining permanent residence. 

Are you ready to live and work in Canada? Fill out our free evaluation form to find out if you are eligible.

Become the right candidate with the job you always wanted with our online IELTS and EECP packages at

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Colin Singer
Colin Singer is an international acclaimed Canadian immigration lawyer and founder of featured on Wikipedia. Colin Singer is also founding director of the Canadian Citizenship & Immigration Resource Center (CCIRC) Inc. He served as an Associate Editor of ‘Immigration Law Reporter’, the pre-eminent immigration law publication in Canada. He previously served as an executive member of the Canadian Bar Association’s Quebec and National Immigration Law Sections and is currently a member of the Canadian Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Colin has twice appeared as an expert witness before Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. He is frequently recognized as a recommended authority at national conferences sponsored by government and non-government organizations on matters affecting Canada’s immigration and human resource industries. Since 2009, Colin has been a Governor of the Quebec Bar Foundation a non-profit organization committed to the advancement of the profession, and became a lifetime member in 2018.