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Berry pickers finally arriving soon from Thailand

The berry pickers invited by Finnish companies will be tested for coronavirus before leaving Thailand.

Thai-poimijat keräävät mustikkaa Luumäellä 2018.
Fewer Thai workers are expected this summer than usual (file photo). Image: Mikko Savolainen / Yle

The first Thai berry pickers are to arrive in Kainuu, Eastern Finland, this weekend and early next week, reports Lännen Media.

Thailand's Ministry of Labour announced about two weeks ago after a long discussion that it would allow berry pickers to travel to Finland and Sweden.

The Finnish Foreign Ministry said that Thai officials will allow the harvesters to travel if the companies here agreed to commit to a series of strict conditions. Finnish officials have been processing visa applications for several days.

Olli Sorainen of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment told Yle that work on the applications has been going on around the clock.

The workers will not be quarantined when they arrive in Finland, but will face a two-week quarantine when they return to Thailand.

"No-one who is sick will come to Finland, so it's safe in that way," said Vernu Vasunta, CEO of Kiantama, one of the firms that has invited berry harvesters.

Plenty of domestic cloudberry pickers this summer

Berry companies are starting to look for workers from other countries besides Thailand for future seasons.

"We've made plans and we intend to develop our domestic purchasing organisation. We can't just depend on one country," said Janne Naapanki, CEO of Marjex, another berry company.

Naapanki said that despite a lack of the usual foreign seasonal workers this summer, his firm has been able to buy good volumes of cloudberries from domestic harvesters, and that bilberries (blueberries) also seem to be coming in.

"A big thanks to the Finns, as we've been able to rescue the situation quite well in regard to cloudberries. We've been able to buy tens of thousands of kilos," Naapanki said.

"A big thanks to the Finns, as we've been able to rescue the situation quite well in regard to cloudberries. We've been able to buy tens of thousands of kilos," Naapanki said.

Infection levels low in Thailand

Vasunta declined to specify how many Thai labourers are arriving to work for his company, but said that the number is somewhat smaller than the 450 the firm had originally hoped for.

Naapanki said that several hundred harvesters are coming to work for his firm.

Tomi Kivenjuuri, a border security expert at the Finnish Border Guard said that there are currently no restrictions on traffic from Thailand. Infection levels in the country have remained low.

"For us, this means normal permission for third-country border crossing traffic," Kivenjuuri told Yle.

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