President Kersti Kaljulaid on Saturday visited agricultural company Mangeni PM, which hires Ukrainian farmhands every year because of locals' lack of interest in the job. Mangeni's Meelis Venno made it into the national media earlier this week when he invited EKRE chairman Mart Helme to come and visit his farm, which he says couldn't run without Ukrainian workers.
The president visited Mangeni PM on Saturday and commented on social media later on the same day that she had "met fine Estonian entrepreneurs and employees."
"I have a lot of respect for them as it is in many ways namely thanks to these people and companies that life in Estonia's rural areas is preserved," President Kaljulaid added.
Mangeni PM is an excellent example of an innovative agricultural enterprise, the president went on. With its trial-and-error approach to developing and modernising farming and its 1,500 heads of cattle, along with its stance on animal welfare, put the large farm "at the absolute top level in Europe."
Mangeni PM doesn't just produce milk, but biogas as well. The gas the farm produces is fed into the network as well as sold as a local filling station. Investment in the business by now amounts to €20 million, and the company employs 40 people as well as four to five farmhands from Ukraine to help out.
Reacting to a statement by chairman of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) made earlier this week, Mr Venno pointed out that he would happily employ locals, but couldn't find anyone who would be ready to do the hard work.
Mr Helme said in an interview with ERR last Tuesday that getting in Ukrainian workers undermines and destroys the nation state. "Slave labour" imported from less economically well-off countries would keep the Estonian economy down and eventually destroy it, Mr Helme added.
Mr Venno has no understanding this point of view: "I pay a Ukrainian employee exactly as high a salary as an Estonian. If mister Helme wants to come and milk cows, he is welcome," Mr Venno told regional paper Sakala, adding that Mr Helme can bring his son along as well. Banning this sort of labour migration would put many Estonian businesses in a difficult position, Mr Venno said.
Editor: Dario Cavegn