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Millions of kilos of unpicked strawberries left to rot in Finland

Rain spells and war-prompted picker shortages have left farmers unable to enjoy the fruits of their labour.

Finland produces around 15 million kilos of strawberries each year. Image: Antti-Petteri Karhunen / Yle

Labour shortages and frequent rain spells will see millions of kilos of strawberries left unpicked and rotten by the end of the summer.

Berry farm Alanteen Tila, located in the southwest city of Paimio, expects that at least a fourth of the annual total average of some 250,000 kilos will remain unpicked this year.

"We estimate that some 50,000 to 60,000 kilos was left uncollected, so yes, this year was of its own kind," the farm's office manager Aarni Alanne told Yle, adding that the company's expected to miss out on some half a million euros in income.

"We are talking about at least a quarter of the company's turnover," he said.

Typically some 70 percent of berry pickers in Finland come from Ukraine and, with the country's ongoing war, a severe labour shortage is impacting Finnish fields.

"We have been looking for labour all summer, both pickers and sellers, and I have heard many other entrepreneurs say that it has been difficult to find employees," Alanne explained.

Finnish Association of Fruit and Berry Growers CEO Miika Ilomäki said that although it is normal for some of the harvest to remain uncollected each year, the situation has been particularly substandard in the area of Paimio.

Light but frequent rain showers in the area did not give enough time for pickers to collect the berries before getting spoiled, according to both interviewees.

"The strawberries literally melted in the field as they were not collected in time," Alanne pointed out.

The farm director added that this year's situation has caused many to reconsider next harvest's plans.

"Business operations have to be adapted to the availability of labor. For example, not a lot of open field seedlings have been ordered for next year," Alanne said, adding that "many people are wondering whether to renew old plants at all, while increasing their surface area is not really on the cards."