Speaking on the "Otse Postimehest" ("Live from Postimees") webcast of the daily Postimees on Wednesday, opposition Reform Party leader Kaja Kallas said that Minister of Rural Affairs Arvo Aller's promise to consider compensating strawberry farmers for their loss is covering up the government's bad choices for taxpayers' money.
"Attempts are being made to stuff [the strawberry farmers' - ed.] mouths with taxpayers' money, so to say," Kallas said.
"It is a little too late for the strawberry farmers. 50-60 thousand tons of strawberries per company have already gone to waste. Imagine an entrepreneur who has created a life's work and now has to look at how the harvest is destroyed. It is very painful and even more painful is that the government, via the mouth of the finance minister, is also mocking these entrepreneurs and being arrogant with them," she added.
Kallas said that attempts are now being made to stuff the strawberry farmers' mouths with taxpayers' money, so to say -- then everyone can say that the government has done exceptionally well and they are being compensated.
"I emphasize that this is a problem caused by the government itself," Kallas said. "They did not allow the use of the additional workforce that these companies needed. What was previously allowed, they forbade and this damage occurred. And now we all have to pay for it! This is definitely not right," she added.
"The government makes very stupid decisions with consequences, economic damage. And now taxpayers have to pay for the government's stupid decisions," Kallas said.
The government refused to allow foreign workers to enter the country during, and after, the emergency situation citing health concerns and fears of spreading coronavirus.
EKRE said strawberry farmers were lying about being unable to find workers in Estonia to pick berries and called them tax evaders who paid wages which were too low.
On Monday, the government agreed foreign workers would be allowed to return to Estonia. Discussions about compensation for berry farmers have also been started.
Police, tax officials check strawberry pickers in South Estonia
Police officers and officials of the Tax and Customs Board checked strawberry pickers in South Estonia on Tuesday but no violations were detected during the raid.
The police officers of the South Prefecture of the Police and Border Guard Board together with colleagues from the Tax and Customs Board inspected the strawberry fields of various companies in South Estonia to make sure that the recruited foreigners are staying and working in the country legally, spokespeople for the South Prefecture said.
Editor: Helen Wright