Lobster processors on P.E.I. are marking a strong year for sales, particularly internationally, but they are also looking ahead to the future and seeing a serious problem.
P.E.I. manufacturing sales from January to November of 2017 were up 8.2 per cent over the same period the previous year. Sales were led by non-durable goods, including food processing.
Lobster landings were up and prices were as well with improving export markets, but Dennis King, executive director of the P.E.I. Seafood Processors Association, said the busy year brought the industry a little bit closer to a looming labour crisis.
"It's been a very difficult year in many regards, simply because there was a very high volume of landed lobster products and we still struggle with some of our labour issues," King said.
"With the proximity of most of our processing facilities in rural P.E.I., and when you combine that with the decreasing and aging workforce in rural P.E.I. , and then you lay up on top of that the dramatic increase in lobster landings in the last couple of years, we're getting to a point where something is going to have to happen."
King said the problem in 2017 did not yet reach the point where production was reduced, but it is not difficult to look ahead and see that happening.
"The reality that we face is that if we can't find a way to get the level of employment within our facilities to the level we need it, there's going to be some difficulties," he said.
King said his association is working with the federal government to try to find a way to get more workers in seafood plants on P.E.I.
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