Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

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Approximately 17,000 SAWP workers heading home

November 1, 2016
By Press release


With fall harvest at an end, the agricultural labour program that helps Ontario’s fruit and vegetable industry thrive is celebrating another successful growing season.

The Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) helped Ontario farmers hire approximately 17,000 seasonal workers from Mexico and the Caribbean as a supplement to local labour in 2016.

While some of these workers will continue their placements for several more weeks, many are beginning to return home on a daily basis as they complete their work terms.


“This program has been providing a lifeline to growers across the province for nearly half a century,” said Ken Forth, president of Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (FARMS), which administers the program. “Without the steady source of reliable seasonal workers provided through SAWP, many farmers in Ontario’s agri-food industry simply couldn’t remain economically viable.”

Established in 1966 to respond to a critical shortage of available domestic agricultural workers, SAWP continues to serve the same role today, connecting Ontario farmers with supplementary seasonal labour from Mexico, Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad/Tobago and the Eastern Caribbean States.

Because SAWP is a “Canadians first” program, supplementary seasonal farm labour is hired from participating countries only if agricultural operators cannot find domestic workers to fill vacancies. Approximately 1,450 farms benefitted from the program this year.

Liaison services from each participating country are instrumental in recruiting and selecting top candidates for placement of successful applicants each year and provide workers support on a wide range of issues during their term of employment. Liaison services are open year round.

“About 80 per cent of the seasonal workers opt to return on repeat contracts because they are able to earn far more than they can at home,” Forth said. “They’re able to provide a better standard of living to their families, pay for their children to attend school and learn skills needed to operate businesses of their own in their home countries.”

Ontario’s overall economy also benefits. It’s estimated that at least two jobs for Canadians are created in the agri-food industry for every seasonal agricultural worker employed through SAWP at Ontario farms.