A chartered plane carrying an unusual combination of travelers is scheduled to depart from Nicaragua to Canada on Monday: temporary foreign workers are bound for commercial bee operations, and Canadians have been stranded in Central America amid a COVID-19 pandemic.
Flights out of the capital city of Managua have been suspended because international travel is slowing, a complicated effort to bring workers to Canada to help manage the spring nest making season – an important time when bees reproduce and develop into healthy colonies. Led by a queen who lays up to 2,000 eggs every day, honey bees are good for more than the name implies; They are very important for cross pollinating fruits, vegetables and canola.
To prevent labor shortages that can have an impact on the food supply chain and injure the beekeeping industry, the Canadian Honey Board takes action on its own. At a cost of around $ 200,000, the board chartered the plane to fly 80 skilled workers from Nicaragua to Canada, landed first in Calgary, and then continued east to Saskatoon, Brandon and Toronto.
“I expect 10 people, and it is very important for them to arrive here,” said Bryan Ash, a partner at Ash Apiaries, a large family that runs beekeeping operations that cross-pollinate orchards in BC, and make honey in Manitoba. He is one of three dozen beekeepers who will pay the council for their seat in flight.
Nicaragua’s workforce is among 60,000 seasonal farms and other temporary workers who come to Canada each year – an important infusion of labor into the agricultural sector. The federal government last month allowed the entry of foreign workers, stipulating that they must be quarantined for 14 days. But travel has been delayed because visa offices in foreign countries have been closed and commercial flights have become scarce.
When the honey board began checking flights, executive director Rod Scarlett reached Global Affairs Canada. “We have never been involved in this, so I want to make sure we cover our base,” he said. “We also ask, ‘Do you need anyone out?'” The answer is yes. Around 40 Canadians are expected to board the same plane.
“[The Canadian Honey Council] “has coordinated directly with the Canadian embassy in Managua regarding arrangements and offering seats to Canadians who want to return to Canada,” Global Affairs spokesman Krystyna Dodds said in an email.
Mr Ash flew nine workers to Canada in February, before the pandemic closed most economic activities. That’s about half of the workers who usually arrive at this time of the year. (He tried to fly with several other men in the last few weeks, but they were twice refused at the Managua airport because of rapidly expanding border controls.)
Ash Apiaries manage thousands of colonies, also known as nests. Each colony can have as many as 80,000 bees. Several thousand of Mr Ash’s colonies were already in the Okanagan Valley, where they had winter in warmer weather. Soon, beekeepers will need to transport insects in trailers – 700 colonies per load – to apple and cherry orchards that need cross pollination to produce fruit.
“Cherry farmers who work with us in SM. very nervous, “Mr. Ash said.” They want their cherries to be pollinated. “
Keep an eye on the temperature overnight and during the day, Mr. Ash suspected he would also soon need to move 8,000 colonies from the indoor temperature control facility at Gilbert Plains, Man., Outside, where they would look for pollen and nectar that would feed the nest and form the basis for honey. The vaginal willow tree begins to grow in the province of Prairie. Time is of the essence.
Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau told The Globe and Mail that his understanding was that around 1,000 temporary foreign workers arrived to work in the agriculture sector last week, with an additional 3,000 to 4,000 expected to come this week.
“That will obviously be slower than usual, but still, we are continuing,” Bibeau said. “We anticipate shortages. [in temporary foreign workers]. It’s still hard to say how much. Will it be 70 percent coming? Is it 80 percent? Hard to say. “
Bibeau encouraged non-working Canadians to raise their hands to agricultural labor that was desperately needed, but Mr. Scarlett says managing a bee colony requires techniques that develop with experience. Workers must be able to identify the queen among tens of thousands of worker bees and hundreds of males, known as drones; if the queen does not lay eggs to standard, she will be killed and replaced.
Workers must have sharp eyes to detect mite attacks that can destroy the hive, and they must feed enough bees of nectar and pollen bread to prevent starvation. Wearing a jacket and veil but often working with their bare hands, workers must also be prepared to be stung dozens of times a day (experienced beekeepers build immunity to poisons).
According to the honey council, there are around 10,000 honey beekeepers who operate a total of 725,000 honey bee colonies from coast to coast. While some hives are managed by fans, most are run by commercial beekeepers. “The biggest concern that commercial operations have is labor,” said Mr. Scarlett.
Workers and Canadians on chartered planes arriving Monday will be taken in temperature before boarding and must wear masks during the trip to protect against the possible spread of the virus.
“We’re glad we can get two things done at once,” said Mr. Scarlett. “The world is really chaotic now. It’s great being able to give Canadians a chance to go home. “
With a report from Tavia Grant
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