Former minister: Seasonal workers must return quickly at end of crisis

Food at a market.
Food at a market. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

It is critical that seasonal migrant workers can return to Estonia at the end of the crisis, Tarmo Tamme, chairman of the Riigikogu's Rural Affairs Committee, said on Tuesday. The agricultural sector, which has been in trouble due to the emergency situation, is waiting for the government to make a decision.

Tamme (Center), a former minister of Rural Affairs, told ERR when the emergency situation ends, the previous situation should be restored immediately, which would allow the country to bring in seasonal foreign labor to help agriculture.

"I am of the opinion that we have no other option. There are a lot of people who are looking for work, but [of those] who would actually be ready to go to the strawberry fields in three weeks - there are not many of them," he said.

Tamme said as the government has allocated large sums of money to the construction sector for various projects and Finland is also reopening its borders to labor migration, the potential labor force which can work in the agricultural sector in Estonia will shrink.

"Unfortunately, there is a situation where the construction sector, for example, buys people from the agricultural sector. At the moment, the government has allocated very large sums for all kinds of work, road construction and construction. I am afraid that now that Finland is opening its borders to the workforce, it will make our situation even more difficult," he said.

Thousands of Estonians work in Finland because it is close and the wages are higher. On Monday, the Finnish government said it would allow Estonian workers to return later this month.

Tamme also said, above all, people who are already in Estonia, be they unemployed or migrant workers, should be directed to work in the agricultural sector.

He said the situation is not only complicated in Estonia and there are many other countries where the harvest will go unpicked this year. There is also a very large drought in Poland which will affect Estonia in the autumn.

"It will put Estonian consumers in a situation where their table could be very sparse in autumn. Not in the sense of starving, but there will simply be no vegetables and fruits," Tamme concluded.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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