In Estonia, the planned strawberry crisis

Photo: EPA

On Estonian farms in a critical situation with the harvest of strawberries, the berry is overripe and no one to clean up. On 3 July, in an interview with ERR said a member of the Board of Estonian Association of producers of strawberries Elke Lillemets.

“There was something that the producers of strawberries feared most: came the heat wave, ripe berries. Many farmers strawberries left in the fields, they do not have time to collect it,” said Lillemets.

From 1 July entrepreneurs that grow berries and fruits, you can claim the government allowance for salaries for employment of seasonal workers, but the fundamental problem of understaffing, this measure will not solve the now in the fields employs about a quarter of the required number of employees, she explained.

“We got used to the fact that Estonians don’t really want to go to work in the field. Benefits are now so large that people feel good. But those who work year round, summer takes a vacation. And when it’s good weather, people go to the beach, not in the field to collect the strawberries,” – said the representative of the Association.

On one of the farms to harvest the berries attracted the inmates that good behavior has earned the right to leave the prison. They are paid the same salary as regular collectors of strawberries, only it will be transferred to the account of the Ministry of justice, and it will decide how much of that money goes to the inmate.

The strawberry growers argue that without foreign labor with the harvest not cope. Back in may, farmers were asked to allow the entry of workers from Ukraine, who every year worked in the fields. The Association cited the example of Finland, which, despite quarantine, the border opened for Ukrainian labor migrants.

However, the Minister of internal Affairs of Estonia, Mart Helme, said at a press conference on may 21 that “we can’t trade our government for a few tons of strawberries”. “It turns out that we can’t do anything without the Ukrainians. Can’t pick strawberries, can’t do the welding, can’t build, can’t, don’t know what else to do without the Ukrainians. And soon we apparently will not be able without the Ukrainians to release the Newspapers, doing TV shows,” said the helm at a press conference, reported ERR.

In September 2019 Helme had proposed to abolish visa-free entry for citizens of Ukraine.

It was expected that in Estonia on an area of about 800 hectares this year will ripen approximately 2000 tonnes of strawberries.


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