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Overview of the Agrifoods Industry

Introduction

The British Columbia agrifoods sector is made up of several industries: agriculture, seafood, and food and beverage processing. In total the sector employs more than 55,000 people.

  • The agricultural sector employs over 38,000 people who work on nearly 20,000 B.C. farms
  • Food and beverage processing companies employee over 28,000 people who work in more than 1,800 businesses that produce a variety of foods and beverages

Farmers, greenhouse owners, egg producers, dairy managers, bakery owners, meat and seafood product manufacturers all report difficulties finding workers!


Studies report that hiring and retaining workers has become a serious issue for employers. Many positions will require filling in the coming years.

The demand for workers covers the full range of the workforce:

  • Seasonal workers
  • Technicians
  • Trades people
  • Managers and supervisors

The industry is losing a great number of its workforce due to retirement. It is projected that 40% of BC’s farmers and farm managers will retire between 2005 and 2015. About 25% of the workers in the food and beverage industry are expected to retire over the same period. With this aging workforce, the industry is at a critical point where it must attract and retain new employees.

Newcomers to Canada are seen as a key source of talent as agrifood companies seek to meet their hiring needs in the years ahead.

Recent immigrants represent:

  • 46% of the workforce in BC food and processing companies
  • 39% of the workforce on BC farms

Source: http://www.mussioassociates.com/PDF_files/Agri-Food%20HR%20plan-09.pdf

The industry has responded by developing a number of programs to attract new workers. These include initiatives to attract you to the sector, corporate efforts to encourage diversity in the workplace, and strategies for training.

One such initiative is the ITA’s Immigrants in Trades Training program. Programs offered through this initiative provide you with hands-on experience, financial assistance, safety training, English courses, and career counselling.

The BC Provincial Nominee Program’s (PNP) Skills Immigration stream is intended for you if you would like to live and work in B.C. and become a permanent resident of Canada.

Programs are also available if you are interested in starting your own farming business.

For more information on the Agrifoods sector see:

Occupations in the Agrifoods Sector

The largest occupations in the agricultural sector include:

Agriculture

The largest occupations in the agricultural sector include:

  • Farmers and farm managers: You manage the operations of a farm such as growing crops, raising livestock and poultry, and marketing farm products
  • General farm workers: You plant, cultivate, and harvest crops, raise livestock and poultry, and maintain farm equipment and buildings
  • Nursery and greenhouse workers: You plant, cultivate, and harvest trees, flowers, and plants, and serve nursery and greenhouse customers
  • Harvesting labourers: You assist other farm workers to harvest, sort and pack crops
  • Landscaping and grounds maintenance labourers

The list below shows the range of jobs included in the agricultural sector:

Number of workers by occupation: BC Agriculture

Occupations Number of
workers 2015
Farmers and farm managers 10,190
Agricultural and related service contractors and managers 40
Farm supervisors and specialized livestock workers 850
Nursery and greenhouse operators and managers 770
Landscaping and grounds maintenance contractors and managers 1,480
Supervisors, landscape and horticulture 1,460
Aquaculture operators and managers 270
General farm workers 9,140
Nursery and greenhouse workers 4,620
Harvesting labourers 3,930
Landscaping and grounds maintenance labourers 20,330
Aquaculture and marine harvest labourers 410

Source: Regional Employment Projections, BC Stats. Projections for development regions

Food Processing:

Top categories in terms of employment include:

  • Labourers in food and beverage processing: You perform clean-up, packaging, and other basic activities related to food and beverage processing.
  • Process control and machine operators: You operate machinery to process and package food and beverage products
  • Fish plant workers

The table below shows occupations found in the food and beverage processing sector:

Number of workers by occupation: BC Food & Beverage Processing

Occupations Number of
workers 2015
Supervisors, food and beverage processing 900
Agricultural and fish products inspectors 600
Process control and machine operators, food & beverage 2,850
Industrial butchers and meat cutters and poultry preparers 1,370
Fish plant workers 2,200
Testers and graders, food and beverage processing 710
Labourers in food and beverage processing 8,120
Labourers in fish processing 1,360

Source: Regional Employment Projections, BC Stats. Projections for development regions

For detailed information on any of the occupations in the agricultural and food processor sectors, including job description, educational requirements for working in BC, salary, and more see:

Hiring Forecast by Region

Most employment is in the Mainland/Southwest region of BC, which includes the Greater Vancouver area:

  • 49% of all agricultural employees work in this region
  • 55% of all food processing firms are in the Lower Mainland

Thompson-Okanagan employs the second largest share of workers (23%) in the agricultural industry. Vancouver Island/Coast is the third largest region of employment, with 14% of agricultural workers.

British Columbia's afrifood and seafood by region
Chart from BC Agrifood and Seafood Strategic Growth Plan

Information on agrifood activities in specific regions can be found at:

For more information see:

Finding Jobs

Online Job Postings

Creating a List of Potential Employers

You can use directories to produce lists of employers in the agrifoods industry in British Columbia. Contact them directly to find out if they’re hiring.

Additional Resources

Still looking for more information? Try looking at the following resources: