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Finland concerned about availability of seasonal agricultural workers

Published : 26 Mar 2020, 22:35

  DF-Xinhua Report

File Photo VisitFinland.

Finland's agricultural sector is concerned about the availability of seasonal workers, as several European countries -- including Finland itself -- have closed their borders due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Jari Leppä, on Thursday urged his compatriots temporarily laid off from their jobs due to the pandemic to consider taking up a job in agriculture. Leppä noted that labor demand is already high in horticulture.

Finland's seasonal agricultural labor force is 20,000-strong annually and has for several decades been recruited mainly from abroad, primarily from Ukraine and Russia. Berrypickers also arrive from Thailand.

Leppä said that a working group under the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment is looking into how the recipients of unemployment benefit could accept jobs in agriculture.

The Finnish Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners (MTK) suggested this week that the seasonal hotel and restaurant workers furloughed from the tourist industry in Lapland could be allowed to remain in Finland and try agricultural work. Permits for non-EU workers are usually tied to a specific branch in Finland.

The MTK also suggested that Finnish people wanting to try an agricultural job could keep their unemployment benefits for a month. However, most locals have found agricultural work unattractive, heavy and less remunerable than other opportunities. Farmers interviewed by Finnish media were generally skeptical whether contemporary urban Finns would acclimatize to rural work.

At the European level, Janusz Wojciechowski, the European commissioner for agriculture and rural development, said in a video conference of ministers of agriculture on Wednesday that the EU is considering measures to help the mobility of foreign agricultural labor.

To date, five people have died and 958 coronavirus cases has been confirmed in Finland.