Rural affairs minister Arvo Aller (EKRE) said strawberry growers have a case for claiming compensation from the state after a labor shortage led to problems at harvest time.
Speaking to regional daily Sakala (link in Estonian), Aller, who was in Viljandi County on Tuesday, said the government plans to develop methodologies for assessing damage inflicted on growers of strawberries and other berries, which would include establishing to what extent problems were the result of the unavailability of labor rather than other factors such as the weather.
The results of the study and whether any compensation will be forthcoming will be clear after the end of the growing season in August, Aller said.
Many strawberry growers have said the labor shortage – blamed on the coronavirus pandemic and changes to immigration laws in Estonia, banning third country nationals from entering country – have led to produce rotting in the fields.
Some farmers say promised the labor assistance provided via the unemployment board had not materialized.
Strawberry prices of Estonian-grown produce at market were considerably higher (around €14 per kg in Tallinn compared with around €4-5 per kg for imported strawberries) as reported last month, again blamed on the shortage, and reports abounded of fraudulent activities such as mixing imported strawberries from as far afield as Greece in with the Estonian produce then selling them at the latter's prices.
The government did a U-turn on its labor law amendment at the beginning on Monday and foreign workers will be allowed into the country and can stay for six months. Previously, all work permits were set to expire on July 31.
Editor: Andrew Whyte