Minister: Priority visas should be issued to Ukrainian seasonal workers

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

Minister of Rural Affairs Urmas Kruuse (Reform) wants visas to be issued to Ukrainians coming to work in the Estonian agriculture sector as a matter of priority.

Kruuse said the agricultural sector still needs to hire workers from abroad even though the majority of positions can be filled by Estonian workers. "Experience from last year shows that it is difficult to find the necessary seasonal labor in our own country, and this brought with it significant economic losses," he said.

Kruuse said, in recent years, the food industry, horticultural, dairy and pig farming sectors have developed a network of employees which includes Ukrainians who work seasonally in Estonia.

"In the pandemic, travel became more difficult. I have received feedback from the agricultural sector that visa queues have become longer, transit countries change the rules suddenly and transport connections are disrupted. This poses a serious threat to Estonian horticultural production," he said.

Kruuse said farmers and companies will suffer economic damage if workers cannot be found and, additionally, Estonian consumers will suffer as there will be a shortage of fresh food.

"I suggest considering the possibility of issuing visas to Ukrainian citizens working in the agricultural sector as a matter of priority, he said.

He said farmers are taking coronavirus restrictions very seriously and have said they will create safe working conditions to stop the spread of the virus.  

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Editor: Helen Wright

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