04/14/2013 01:43 EDT | Updated 06/14/2013 05:12 EDT

Hundreds of foreign farm workers delayed from entering Quebec

Some Quebec farmers are worried they won’t be able to find workers to plant their spring crops after hundreds of farm workers from Guatemala have been delayed from entering the country.

According to FERME, an organization that recruits temporary foreign agricultural workers, more than 500 Guatemalans who were expected to arrive in Quebec are still waiting for their visas.

“As soon as the weather will warm up the workers will be needed in the field and the season will start so it could be huge losses if the delays are too long,” said Marie-Jeanne Vandoorne, a spokeswoman for the Agriculture Workers Alliance.

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About 70 per cent of the 10,000 foreign workers who come to Quebec every year are from Guatemala, according to Vandoorne.

She said in the past the federal government has tried to encourage farmers to hire local workers, but efforts were unsuccessful.

Last spring, Vandoorne said Ottawa stopped dozens of Guatemalans from entering the country. She said the government wanted farmers to hire Quebecers instead.

“It was impossible to find 60 Quebecers who will accept to be paid at minimum wage for maybe sometimes 50 to 70 hours a week,” she said.

It is unclear why the latest group of Guatemalan workers have been delayed.

Federal immigration minister Jason Kenney was unavailable for an interview, but a spokesperson for his office said they are looking into the delays.