Agricultural organizations are lobbying the government to allow foreign labor to enter the country as spring approaches.
Two bodies, the Estonian Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce (EPKK) and the Estonian Farmers Federation (GFAR) have petitioned the government to allow foreign labor into the country, though quarantine restrictions should remain, as the busy spring period arrives.
"Sowing and planting crops cannot be postponed and cows need milking several times every day; this type of work cannot be suspended from midnight by an order of the government pending an improvement in the situation,," board chair of the EPKK Roomet Sõrmus said, according to BNS, adding that while new applications for workforce were being accepted, no decisions had been made.
Both bodies said agricultural holdings need approximately 2,000 foreign agricultural workers in the spring work season which starts in April. The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), however, is currently not handling applications for visas, extensions of stay, residence permits, right of residence and registration of short-time employment, for the time being.
Seventy-five enterprises, which expect 400 seasonal workers coming primarily from Ukraine are due to start work during the emergency situation, currently set to the end of April, have informed the EPKK about their concerns., BNS reports.
About 100 of these workers' work permits will expire before the beginning of May, meaning that extraordinary extension is necessary.
The organizations said that while they hope farmers will find partial relief for the labor shortage via the Unemployment Insurance Fund (Töötukassa), they don't consider substituting all foreign workers with local workers in the near future to be realistic.
"Farmers of course want to find enough local workers in Estonia who would be prepared to work in the fields or in livestock sheds," the organizations said.
The petition stated that the farming and food sectors need prompt decisions to mitigate the crisis and its effects on foreign labor, in order to ensure the country's continued food supply and the functioning of one of the most important sectors of the economy.
Editor: Andrew Whyte