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JIS News

Approximately 6,000 Jamaican men and women are expected to be employed on farms in Canada this year.
Larkland Stone, Chief Liaison Officer at the Jamaica Liaison Service (JLS), which oversees the Farm Work Programme in Canada, said that the figure represented the same amount as last year.
“At this time, based on projections and the fact that we have picked up a few new growers, we are hoping to maintain the same figure as last year,” he said in an interview with JIS News.
Mr. Stone attributed the strong numbers, despite the global economic crisis, to the good relationship between the Canadian farmers and the Jamaican workers. He informed that at least 80 per cent of the workers were returnees, who were requested by the Canadian growers. “The Canadian farmers say the Jamaicans are hard workers, who are very reliable and very dependable,” he told JIS News.
The Jamaican Farm Work Programme in Canada began in 1966 with 264 apple pickers in the province of Ontario. The programme has proved to be a win-win situation for both countries, with the Canadian farmers able to meet labour needs during the peak planting and harvesting periods, and the Jamaican workers finding employment and earning much needed foreign exchange.
Jamaican workers can be found each year scattered across seven of Canada’s 10 provinces – Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Manitoba, Alberta, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia – and they work in all areas of the agricultural sector.
“Our workers are employed in all categories of farming such as animal husbandry, beekeeping, horticulture, greenhouses and other agriculture production. Last year, we had workers in the skilled sector,” said Mr. Stone.
The first set of 187 workers for 2009 arrived in Canada on a cold January day and they were placed in greenhouses or hydroponic farms, growing tomatoes and peppers. Another group left the island last Wednesday (April 15) for the North American country. Approximately 2,000 Jamaican workers are now in Canada and the number will increase steadily each week. The last set of workers for 2009 will leave Canada around December 15.
Most of the Jamaican farm workers come from rural Jamaica “due to the fact that the Canadian employers are looking for workers from farming communities with some farming experience,” explained Mr. Stone. A small percentage of workers however, hail from Kingston.
Female workers were included in the programme in 2003, with 29 placed on a strawberry farm and at a canning factory in Ontario. Since then, the number of female workers has grown steadily, with 88 arriving in 2007 and 130 last year. It is expected that the same amount of female workers will return to Canada this year, with the possibility of a small increase in numbers.

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