Thai wild berry pickers will not be able to enter Finland this summer. The Thai Ministry of Labor informed the Finnish authorities and companies in the field on Tuesday.
According to Olli Sorainen, Government Counselor at the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, the Thai decision came as a surprise, as the Finnish government had been negotiating wild berry pickers together with the Thai authorities throughout the spring. The reason for the Thai decision is their concern about dealing with the interest rate crisis in Finland.
- The Thai authorities do not find it credible that Finnish berry companies are able to organize the special measures required by the corona in the way required by the Thai people, Sorainen says.
The quota of Thai berry pickers for Finland was 3,000 pickers. According to Sorainen, the gap they left is very difficult to fill. Now the fear is that the berries will not be picked completely.
For Finnish berry companies, the Thai decision is a shock. The share of berries collected by foreign pickers in the berries purchased in Finland has been about 90 per cent in recent years.
- In practice, this means that there will be little domestic berry available next winter, but the berry that can be found in stores is likely to be imported largely from outside Finland, says Vernu Vasunta, CEO of Kiantama Oy, which specializes in natural berry processing.
The price of Finnish wild berries starts to rise sharply when there is demand for Marja, but no supply.
- The scarce domestic berry will be significantly more expensive than before, Vasunta says.
The berry season begins in a month and a half, when the blueberry harvest is ready to be picked after mid-July. According to Vasunta, it is almost impossible to replace Thai pickers with such a fast schedule.
Vasunta regrets that the Thai authorities do not trust that it is safe to come to Finland.
- Yes, we have been constantly informed that we are able to provide safe conditions for the pickers who come here. I understand that the Thai authorities are skeptical about Sweden, but we are in a very different situation in Finland, Vasunta says.
Thailand will not allow pickers to enter Sweden either.
Is there any way to answer the shortage of pickers? In the past, some Ukrainian berry pickers have visited Finland to pick wild berries. According to Sorainen, however, they are unlikely to be of much help in filling the shortage of pickers, because Ukraine requires seasonal workers coming to Finland to have at least three months' employment and wild berry pickers do not have an actual employer.
The government has outlined that 9,000 seasonal workers from Ukraine can come to Finland this year for agricultural work. After the end of the seasonal work, they can also stay in Finland to pick wild berries.
- It is possible that part of this crowd will remain in Finland, but certainly not a very significant part, Sorainen says.
According to Sorainen, the Ministry of Employment and the Economy is now trying, together with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and companies and organizations in the field, to think urgently about how to get replacement wild berry pickers to Finland.
The decision on Thailand was first reported by Yle.