BC fruit growers say they are being overcharged for the cost of bringing foreign farm workers to BC from Mexico.
Grower Sam DiMaria led the charge at the BC Fruit Growers Association meeting in February, saying growers are losing thousands of dollars every year.
"You have to make the arrangement through a travel agent that is affiliated with the Mexican government, and they seem to have a monopoly," DiMaria says. "When we attempt to book the flights to bring the workers in the price of the seat always seems to be at a premium price.
"We know from experience that we can get the same flights at a much reduced price."
DiMaria says an orchardist bringing in five workers could end up paying $1,000 to $1,500 in unnecessary travel charges.
"The problem is, when we bring the workers in here in the early part of the growing season, we are forced to go through their travel agent, and the price that they charge us is much higher than we could find on our own with someone like Air Canada," DiMaria says.
"We know this because when we send the workers back to Mexico we are allowed to make our own arrangements, and we find every time that we can find cheaper seats, at significant reductions."
How significant? DiMaria says it usually works out to about $200 to $300 per worker on a one-way flight from Mexico City.
"This last round here a few weeks ago we were faced with paying 800 or 900 per seat," DiMaria says. "My wife could have found that same seat for anywhere from five to six hundred dollars.
"I understand that may change due to the timing of the flight and the number of available seats, but I believe if someone does their due diligence they would be able to find seats at a much reduced cost."
BCFGA manager Glen Lucas says the issue of travel arrangements for Mexican farm workers is negotiated on an ongoing basis by the Canadian government and the Mexican government, but the BCFGA does have the ability to comment on issues, and can give input on the negotiations.
"This is something we are very aware of, and it is something we will be working on in these negotiations with the Mexican government," Lucas said.