Updates from OBA during COVID-19

This page has been set up to include, explain or bring light to some of the issues beekeepers are facing for the 2020 Beekeeping season as a result of COVID-19. New information will be added as it develops.

Stay safe, bee healthy, reduce risk and let's get through this.


Your OBA is trying to stay on top of a rapidly evolving situation and all the many issues that effect beekeepers this spring. It's most important that we stay healthy and continue to manage the health of our bees. 

Access to Temporary Foreign Workers:

Many commercial beekeepers in Ontario and across Canada utilize temporary foreign workers to fill the labour needs in their operations. Services like FARMS (http://farmsontario.ca/) help to bring these workers into Canada. When the ban on foreign nationals was implemented by the Federal Government, FARMS immediately went to work lobbying for the foreign national ban to omit labourers needed in Canada.

March 16, 2020 - Prime Minister announces a ban on foreign nationals from all countries except the United States from entering Canada. The measure would not apply in designated exceptional circumstances, including to air crews, travellers arriving in Canada in transit to a third country, Canadian permanent residents, diplomats, or immediate family members of Canadian citizens.
 
March 20th, 2020 - The federal government says it will exempt temporary foreign workers from some COVID-19 travel restrictions because of their importance to the Canadian economy. Exemptions to that rule will apply to foreign nationals who have already committed to working, studying or making Canada their home. Travel by temporary foreign workers will also be considered essential travel for land border restrictions. Exemptions will apply to seasonal agricultural workers, fish-seafood workers, caregivers and all other temporary foreign workers. These workers will face health screening before travel and must isolate for 14 days upon their arrival in Canada.
 
This issue, although on it's way to being resolved, is still in jeopary due to the lack of transportation (flights) to bring the workers into Canada. Ongoing talks are occuring to continue this work.
 
New - A website has been set up to provide a common place to find and post agricultural jobs in Ontario. 
 
UPDATE! March 31st, 2020 - Flights are being scheduled to allow workers to fly to Canada. The 14 day quarantine will be in effect for their arrival. http://thegrower.org/news/first-flight-jamaica-confirmed-april-1
 
April 13th, 2020 - Funding to help pay for foreign temporary workers during quarantine was announced from the Federal Government. CTV News
 
FAQ's Regarding TFWP
 
May 2020 - Most workers are making their way into the province. They will undergo the quarantine restrictions when they arrive. Funding is available to help with added safety measures and housing for workers.
See the funding aspects HERE.
 
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Importation of Queens and Packages:
 
March 19th, 2020 - Due to the lack of flights coming to and from Canada, especially those from countries that supply packages and queens, the airline industry has had to make significant reductions to their expenses. One cutback that was enacted was Air Canada's embargo on live animal transport. Traditionally Air Canada is the main carrier for bees being shipped into Canada.
 
This issue is still a concern for our Ontario beekeeping industry. Talks are happening amongst the Canadian Honey Council (CHC), CAPA Importation Committee, Canadian Horticultural Council, Provincial Apiarists and major importers of queens and packages across Canada to try and resolve the movement of live animals from non-bordering countries through alternate means.
 
April 6th, 2020 - Talks continue with Air Canada and suppliers of packages and queens abroad. The lack of flights continue to be a barrier to providing early packages and queens for those looking to boost colonies for pollination services. Alternative options are being discussed.
 
April 20th, 2020 - Some flights with queens have been arriving in Toronto. The accessibility to queens continues to evolve and change every day.
 
May 2020 - Queen are slowly coming into the province from various avenues. Most queens arriving now are from California.
 
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Farmers Markets Shut Down:
 
March 17th, 2020 - Province of Ontario declared a State of Emergency and further measures to avoid the assembly of 50 person or more. This included the closure of most farmers markets across the province. 
Farmer's Markets are one of the primary places where beekeepers sell their products. Income can become very limited without this venue to sell products in larger numbers.
 
The National Farmers' Union began a compaign to allow Farmer's Markets to remain open, in similarity to grocery stores, stating they are an essential service for food security. 
Read more here.
 
New: The OFA has put together a guide for selling directly to your customers while keeping yourself safe.
 
A great idea is to collaborate with other producers to create local food boxes that could be picked up or delivered in your area. Reach out to bakeries, greenhouses, butcher shops, cheese shops, coffee roasters and more to create a great package that local people can buy.
 
April 4th, 2020 - Farmer's Markets of Ontario is researching e-commerce platforms for purchasing market items online.
 
April 7th, 2020 - Farmers’ markets, as businesses that primarily sell food, are again considered essential workplaces. Certain restrictions apply. E-commerce platforms are still being investigated for the long term stability.
 
Farmer's Markets of Ontario Website
 
April 24th, 2020 - Funding announced to help Agri-Food Businesses place their products online. Get started on creating an E-Business. See more information here.
 
May 2020 - Farmers markets are working to re-open, with certain restrictions in place. Some markets are taking orders online and doing curbside pickups on certain days of the week.
Farmer's Markets of Ontario Website
 
 
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Essential Services:
 
March 24th, 2020 - Essential Services List Released
 
The agri-food sector was listed as an Essential Service that will be allowed to remain in operation during COVID-19 shutdowns. Beekeepers, providing pollination for crops and honey production are key to the agri-food industry. Animal welfare should be taken into consideration as well, as bees need to be maintained and managed on a regular basis to ensure health and survival.
 
April 3rd, 2020 - An updated (reduced) list of Essential Services was released. Beekeepers remain within the list, under point 10 - Agriculture and food production. It is recommended that you carry your OMAFRA Honey Bee Registration certificate with you when travelling to beeyards to provide assurance that you are an essential service. If you have an additional farm membership (OFA, NFU, CFFO), carry that identification as well.
 
April 10th, 2020 - Construction jobs related to production, processing, manufacturing or distribution of food, beverages or agricultural products are permitted to continue. 
 
 
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Workshops:
 
At this time, OBA TTP workshops will remain as scheduled. 
TTP is monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely and will adhere to government recommendations as they come out. We are maintaining a positive outlook and are hopeful that our workshops will be able to run as scheduled in May and June.
Should it be necessary to cancel any of the workshops, registrants will be notified immediately and given the choice of either a full refund, or full credit to use at a later time. Similarly, if anyone feels unsafe or uncomfortable attending the workshops, participants can request a full refund or credit with no penalty. 
 
Update: Most May workshops have been cancelled. 
 
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Informative Links: