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Farmers searching for ways to replace workers leaving in August

Foreign workers in Võru County.
Foreign workers in Võru County. Source: ERR

Farmers are still searching for laborers to work in their fields, but the situation is about to get worse. On July 31 the work permits of many migrant workers will expire and they must leave Estonia next month.

While the government ruled out accepting foreign workers during the emergency situation and directly after it, third country workers in Estonia were allowed to extend their permits as long as they were employed in the agricultural sector.

Tomorrow, these extended work permits will expire and farmers will need to find replacement workers, which was already proving to be tricky.

Halinga OÜ, a farm working with milk production and growing grain in Pärnu County, currently employs approximately a dozen workers from third countries, five of whom will have to leave Estonia during August. 

Raul Peetson, manager of Halinga OÜ, said new Ukrainian workers have been found but they are currently unable to get to Estonia so far.

As flights were restored with Ukraine on Thursday, Peetson is keeping his fingers crossed that the infection rate in Ukraine will remain at a level which allows direct flights to operate between the two countries.

Peetson said the company first tried to find new employees in Estonia. Dozens of CVs were sent to the farm after adverts were placed with Pärnu Unemployment Insurance Fund. But of the 40 people called to a trial day only three turned up and none of them decided to take a job.

Halinga OÜ is now being forced to stretch its existing workforce until the newly hired Ukrainians can fly to Tallinn.

"We can get the job done, but it all comes from spreading the burden on other people and it is a significant increase in work," Peetson said.

The company has also taken into account the 14-day quarantine period requirements for arrivals from Ukraine. "In the same way, we are equally responsible for ensuring that this infection is not spread, and we want to be sure that the people who come are healthy," he said.

Member of the board of the Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce Vahur Tõnissoo said some farmers who cannot find more employees will have to do all the work themselves without taking a holiday, which is not sustainable.

At the beginning of the summer, labor shortage problems impacted strawberry growers but now this deficit has moved to other areas, he said.

Last week the chamber chartered a plane to bring 170 workers from Ukraine to Estonia but no more fights are planned. Some workers have arrived in Estonia by land and it is hoped this the route will continue to work.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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