Farmer: Agriculture labor shortage cannot be solved by hiring city workers

Dairy cows in Saaremaa. (Photo is illustrative.)
Dairy cows in Saaremaa. (Photo is illustrative.) Source: ERR

The Estonian agriculture sector can not manage without migrant labor because the acute labor shortage has lasted for decades, farmers have said after plans to send migrant workers home were agreed by the government on Thursday. The government thinks unemployed Estonians should be sent to the country to work instead if there are vacancies, farmers do not agree.

Head of Pajusi ABF and Farmer of the Year 2016 Lembit Paal thinks the problem can not be solved by hiring people from cities who have lost their job during the coronavirus crisis because modern agriculture requires skilled workers.

At Pajusi ABF, four or five Ukrainian employees have been working as cow milkers and feeders, ETV current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported on Thursday.

Paal said the Ukrainians are motivated and hardworking. He hired migrant labor due to the large labor shortage in the agriculture sector because it is hard to find people with the revelant skills and knowledge from the locals.

"Firstly, the demographic situation supports this tendency: the population in the countryside is ageing, lots of people are moving abroad, several people who used to work in agriculture are working in Finland at the moment. Secondly, the work in agriculture is difficult, it requires commitment and love for animals from the workers," Paal explained.

Lembit Paal Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The infrastructure that would be in favor of living in the countryside is also in decline - many places lack proper roads, the schools, shops and post offices have been closing for years.

"It is mainly work not done by the state that has caused the acute labor shortage in agriculture and in the countryside in general. Actually, we are waiting for clear steps from the government to bring more people here. Then we will have the hope that among these people we have someone who will want to work in agriculture," Paal said.

Paal does not believe that people who have lost their job due to the coronavirus crisis are going to help food producers.

"For some reason, a farmers' occupation is thought to be so primitive that it can be handled by any cashier or anyone who is now unemployed. It's an incredibly primitive understanding of modern agriculture. I sincerely believe there are no people who want to come to work in the countryside," Paal said.

He does not dare to think about what will happen if the evil disease (COVID-19 - ed.), of which he does not dare to say out loud, should hit the workers on his farm.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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