ERR reports: The hunt for cheap Estonian strawberries

In an interview with journalist Toomas Sildam earlier this week, MEP Jaak Madison (EKRE) said that the domestic strawberry situation was good, claiming he had seen Estonian-grown strawberries for sale at Tallinn produce markets for €4-5 per kilogram just a few days prior. ERR visited several markets in town to see whether and where such cheap Estonian strawberries could be found.

Tallinn Central Market (Keskturg)

Our first stop is Tallinn Central Market. Outside the property, in front of the gates, people are selling Greek and Polish strawberries. The former cost €2.80 per kilogram; the latter, €4.50. Some sellers are employing dishonest practices, displaying prices for just half a kilo (€1.45 and €1.90), which is prohibited by law. No Estonian strawberries here, however.

We work our way through meters of cheap clothes until we reach the heart of the open-air market. The first sales area has few sellers, though, and no strawberries. We make our way toward the back sales area. On the way there, I overhear one older market seller tell another in Russian that Rita's throat hurts. At the same time, someone on the other side starts coughing hard, and walking toward us is an elderly person in a face mask. I'm starting to get uneasy.

We do find strawberry-sellers in the back sales area, but the situation just repeats itself: nothing but Greek and Polish, Green and Polish. Prices are a bit cheaper than outside the gates, spanning from €2.50-3.80 (Greek) and from €3.60-4.50 (Polish). No Estonian strawberries anywhere. We start to think that as we asked permission from market administration to come photograph Estonian strawberries, sellers were lecured and signs have simply been stowed away. But this is conjecture; we don't have the facts.

We walk to the third aisle, where you can usually find a lot of Estonian produce. We notice Estonian cucumbers, foreign sour cherries and other things, but no strawberries labeled Estonia there either. All we hear from behind the counters is Russian. One seller asks our photographer to take a picture of her.

Asked about Estonian strawberries, one seller replies with a thick accent that it will be another few days, then they'll be available. We walk away empty-handed. Perhaps we'll have more luck at the other markets!

One seller at the Central Market ignored the requirement to display price per kilogram, opting to display price per 500 grams instead. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Baltic Station Market (Balti jaama turg)

Baltic Station Market is like a breath of fresh air after the old and dilapidated Central Market. A disinfectant stand awaits buyers right at the gate; it's impossible to miss.

Prices at Baltic Station Market are likewise higher than at the Central Market, but not significantly. Goods at the outdoor market, however, are more expensive than indoors.

Greek strawberries are available for €3.50-3.90, while Polish strawberries being sold alongside them range from €4.50-5.94. It is at the second stall that we luck out finding Estonian strawberries at the market!

Signs even promise two different varieties: the first is labeled "Sasation," the other, "Asia." Beautiful big berries in both cases. The price per kilogram for both is €12. I ask the seller what county the strawberries are from. She says they're from Valga County. Then she starts to waver, and reconsiders: no, they're from Põlva County. Without being asked, she starts rifling through a folder and pulls out the invoice, which she kindly offers for us to look at. Then she kindly offers us a sample of the strawberries. It would be a sin to say no! The "Sasation" is a bit watery; the "Asia" is much sweeter. Alongside the €12 Estonian "Asia" are Polish "Asia" costing €4.50. To the untrained eye, these "colleagues" look exactly alike; only the price is different, so we simply have to trust the seller if we want to buy the nearly three times more expensive Estonian strawberries. If they really are Estonian strawberries.

We find big Estonian strawberries a few stalls away as well, with the country of origin marked by a small blue, black and white sticker. The same variety as at the first stall, only spelled a bit differently: "Sonsation," with a price of €14.90. The young woman behind the counter selling the strawberries beams and knows exactly where her goods are from: Ahja, in Põlva County. She says she has been selling Estonian strawberries for about a week already. In addition to Estonian strawberries, she also sells Polish berries.

We don't find any more Estonian strawberries in the outdoor area. We do find another stall without any signs and where strawberries are being sold for €8 per kilo, but the country of origin thereof remains unknown.

We also pop into the market building, but don't find any Estonian strawberries there. Stalls are offering Greek and Polish strawberries, however, at prices of €2.90-3.50 (Greek) and €3.80-4.80 (Polish).

The strawberries for sale at one stall at Baltic Station Market transitioned seamlessly from Estonian to Polish, with the only visible difference to the untrained eye being the price tag. Autor/allikas: Priit Mürk/ERR

Nõmme Market

We pin our last hopes onto Nõmme Market. But that is overrun with Greek and Polish strawberries too. Nearly all of the Polish strawberries cost €4.50 per kilo; the cheapest we found was €3.90 at one stall and the most expensive, €4.90.

Nonetheless, what are unmistakably Estonian strawberries catch our eye at one stall. This is Morna Farm from Viljandi County, which has been selling its strawberries at the market for 15 years already. "Sonata" and "Polka" varieties. The berries are tiny, like from your grandmother's garden, and nearly half the size of the Greek or Polish berries. They cost €15 per kilo. The seller points at a photo on the counter — it depicts the strawberries being grown at Morna Farm — and says that these strawberries were grown under tarps, as it's too early for open-air strawberries.

We also find two baskets labeled Estonian strawberries at a stall filled with Polish strawberries. They are labeled "Sensation" (the third spelling of this variety we've seen in one day) and likewise cost €15 per kilo. The sign by the strawberries indicates that these are from Joosepi Farm, but the seller has no idea what county that may be in. She confirmed that Estonian strawberries are selling well, and there are only two baskets left. Nonetheless, we buy Polish "Asia" strawberries from her — the biggest at the market — for €5.

Jaak Madison's trip to the market was apparently superficial — you can't get Estonian strawberries for €4-5. He may, however, have seen Polish berries for sale at those prices. It's the same EU, sure, but a different country nonetheless.

Tiny, domestically grown Morna Farm strawberries for sale for €15 per kilo at Nõmme Market. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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