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Minister: No need for more restrictions on seasonal farm workers despite Covid outbreak at plant nursery

Nearly one third of foreign workers at a plant nursery in Pieksämäki tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday.

mansikanpoimijoita pellolla.
In the past, foreign seasonal farm labour mainly came from Estonia, but in the past decade more have come from Ukraine. Image: Jari Pussinen / Yle

Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Jari Leppä (Cen) says that there is no need for stricter rules on foreign seasonal workers in the agricultural industry.

“We have extremely clear regulations about quarantines, entry into the country and testing – and they must of course all be followed,” Leppä said on Friday.

A day earlier, 64 employees at a plant nursery in Pieksämäki, south-central Finland, tested positive for coronavirus. The workers had to come to the country for seasonal labour, mostly from Ukraine, Poland and Vietnam. Altogether nearly 200 people were working at the nursery.

“It is extremely unfortunate that this kind of large cluster has been found, but it’s good that that the matter is been dealt with and brought under control,” Leppä told Yle.

Infected skinners stopped at Helsinki Airport

Last week about 10 people coming to work as skinners at fur farms were found to have coronavirus infections when tested at Helsinki Airport.

They were going to work at fur farms around the country. They will be allowed to continue on to work after recovering and undergoing quarantine. Those who were exposed to them have been traced.

In early autumn a coronavirus infection cluster was found at construction sites in Jyväskylä, which employed many foreign workers.

Leppä: Seasonal workers’ know-how needed

According to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, eight percent of Covid-19 cases diagnosed last week originated abroad.

Leppä said that seasonal workers are essential to the Finnish agricultural sector.

“They have a lot of know-how that we lack,” he said.

Typically foreign seasonal labour is used in field and forest work as well as on strawberry farms and nurseries. This year 7,000 seasonal workers have come to Finland after being designated as critical workers by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

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