Approximately 2,000 foreign seasonal workers needed in Estonia this year

Estonian strawberries on sale at Balti Jaam Market in Tallinn in summer 2020.
Estonian strawberries on sale at Balti Jaam Market in Tallinn in summer 2020. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Approximately, 2,000 seasonal workers from third countries are needed in Estonia this year in the agricultural sector and the Ministry of Rural Affairs has promised to publish safety guidelines in the next few months.

Unlike the previous government, Estonia's new coalition does not oppose farmers hiring short-term workers from third countries to work in the agricultural sector.

On Friday, a meeting was held between the agricultural sector, government ministries and the Health Board to discuss how many short-term workers are needed in Estonia this year and how to organizer workers' safe arrival.

Minister of Rural Affairs Urmas Kruuse (Reform) said: "An embarrassing labor policy is not being pursued [this year]. The most important thing is that all parties share goodwill and I think that a moment like last year will not be repeated this year."

Chairman of the Board of the Estonian Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce Roomet Sõrmus told ERR short-term workers are most needed in the horticultural, berry growing and livestock sectors.

Estonia's seasonal workers mostly come from Ukraine and Moldova and the Ministy of Rural Affairs will now draw up guidelines for their arrival. Additional safety requirements are needed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"First of all, we want to know that the people who are entering our country are healthy. This means that they must do a test in the host country. They will also test here on the spot and, of course, there will also be quarantine conditions, but employers said today, that they are ready to follow the regulations. But knowing how to do that is important," Kruuse said.

Sõrmus said employers want to see these rules and for them to be in place as soon as possible. He said it is difficult to estimate how many foreign workers will come to Estonia this year, but farmers also hope more Estonians will join their workforces.

"In Estonian agriculture in general, nine out of ten people are still Estonia's own people who work here in agriculture. We know that Estonia's own labor market is, unfortunately, moving in a negative direction and local people will surely find their way to the agricultural sector," Sõrmus added.

ERR's Estonian portal reported on Friday that 2,000 foreign workers are needed this year in Estonia.

Last year, not enough seasonal workers could be found in Estonia after the government blocked farmers hiring workers from abroad during the emergency situation.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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