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Ukrainian seasonal workers to be flown into Finland during spring

The berry farm labourers will be brought in on about 10 charter flights beginning from March.

mansikanpoimijat lajittelevat mansikoita pellon laidalla.
Workers at one of Koivistoisen Mansikkapaikka's strawberry farms last summer. Image: Jari Pussinen / Yle

Entrepreneurs who need extra farm workers from Ukraine can now book seats for them on special charter flights beginning in March. About 10 flights are planned, with more to be added if necessary.

Ismo Ruutiainen, a berry farmer from Kitee, eastern Finland, who is also chair of the Fruit and Berry Farmers Association, says he had good experiences with Ukrainian workers flown in last summer. This time he plans to book seats for some of the later spring flights.

"Our need for seasonal workers begins in May," Ruutiainen said.

The coronavirus situation has increased costs for entrepreneurs, who usually split travel costs with the labourers.

"In the past, when workers came in from abroad, they paid for all their travel costs themselves," Ruutiainen told Yle. The biggest need for seasonal workers is on berry farms, but labour is also needed for other types of farms.

Nearly all from Ukraine

Last summer Finland brought in about 7,000 seasonal workers from abroad, nearly all from Ukraine. There was also plenty of domestic labour, but no statistics were compiled.

"Last summer we had a good, workable combination and were able to bring the harvest in," said Marko Mäki-Hakola, Director of Business Development at the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners of Finland (MTK).

The union estimates the overall need for seasonal labour at about 16,000 people each year.

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