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Strawberry season brings hundreds of seasonal workers to Estonia

Strawberries. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The strawberry season is at hand, and plenty of Estonia's growers need to hire help to pick them. As ERR's Estonian online news reported on Wednesday, they often prefer foreign workers over locals.

According to data of the Police and Border Guard (PPA), more than 1,500 foreign workers have been registered for the season, more than 1,100 of which were hired for the agricultural, forestry, and fishery sectors.

An example is Laari Farm in Tartu County's Konguta. The farm has hired students from Tallinn for years. As owner Kadri Nebokat explains, they like the fact that they can help out youngsters looking for summer jobs, but quite a number of their seasonal hires still comes from abroad.

Nebokat prefers Ukrainian workers: "It's hard to find seasonal workers for such a short period of time here in Estonia, as the season also depends on the weather. The conditions are harsh, everything is unpredictable," she says.

Also, very different from her Estonian employees, the Ukrainians don't have any prejudices or other objections to this kind of work. "A great deal of our people are here the third year in a row, and all the new people are friends and acquaintances of theirs. We've got all kinds of people working on our fields, teachers, engineers, cabinet makers, all sorts of professions. They want to make a little extra during the season, to make life back home a little easier," Nebokat explains.

Just like other farmers hiring seasonal help, Nebokat doesn't want to say how much her helpers are getting paid.

Yet help is dearly needed. As Andrus Horn of grower Helme Maasikakasvatuse OÜ explains, they don't stand a chance to find enough local labour for the size of the land on which they are growing their strawberries. Horn also praises his Ukrainian pickers: "They're present, they're motivated, and they show up every morning. With locals I couldn't be sure whether or not they're going to show up."

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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