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Farms hire domestic seasonal workers to salvage berry crop

A drop in the number of seasonal workers coming to Finland from abroad had placed the harvest in jeopardy.

mansikka
Finland's strawberry crop has suffered from the changing weather as well as a lack of seasonal pickers. Image: Igor Tichonow

Many Finnish berry farmers have started relying on domestic seasonal workers to pick their crops this summer, as foreign workers were unable or unwilling to travel to Finland due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The situation farmers faced was precarious in the spring, as the number of seasonal workers coming from abroad was projected to be far fewer than needed.

Even those who did arrive would be likely to be subject to extra security checks and even quarantine, leaving the berry farmers who rely on their labour to look for alternatives locally -- where they found an eager and varied range of labourers.

"There was a really diverse group of applicants, even the pensioners were eager to apply for jobs with us," Simo Rasimus, a berry farm owner in the eastern Finnish town of Imatra, told Yle.

Rasimus currently has 30 employees working on his berry farm, most of whom were recruited from the local area.

400+ applicants

"We received more than 400 job applications, which means that there was a lot of interest and we can be very grateful for that," Rasimus said, adding that the recruiting of domestic labour has helped to save the crop on other farms in the area too.

"There is a slight deficit on some farms, but I have not heard that there's a catastrophic situation anywhere. The matter has been so much in the public eye, so that has certainly helped as well," Rasimus said.

In some cases, farms needed to hire twice as many Finnish workers because they are "slower" than their foreign counterparts, but the local farmers are very hopeful and confident that most of the harvest will be collected, Rasimus added.

The harvesting of the strawberry crop in Finland has been lagging behind its usual schedule due to unusually cold weather during April and May. The subsequent sunny and warm weather of June has also further constrained the completion of the strawberry harvest.

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