Hundreds of Thai berry pickers flying to Finland 

An initial group of 300 migrant workers were given coronavirus tests in their own country this week, and will fly to Finland to start jobs at an Ostrobothnia-based company on the weekend.

File picture of lingonberries / Credit: News Now Finland

Around 300 seasonal labourers from Thailand will arrive in Finland this weekend to start work picking berries for an Ostrobothnia company, just in time for peak harvesting season.

Thousands of migrant workers usually come every year to Finland for short-term contracts in the agricultural sector but this year with the coronavirus pandemic and travel restrictions that wasn’t able to happen.

In early July the Finnish government agreed to let 3,000 migrant workers come from Thailand because of the acute need for labourers to harvest the berry crops, and at the end of the month the Thai government also gave permission for them to come to Finland and Sweden, lifting a previously-imposed travel ban.

The 300 workers had to meet strict health criteria before their own government would let them leave the country.

“They have been tested now yesterday in Thailand before they leave the country, then they arrive to Finland and go to our camps we have around in Finland and they start picking berries” says Tommy Gustafsson, Managing Director of Kvarken-based Marja Bothnia Berries Oy which will hire 630 migrant workers this season in total.

The company specialises in the sale of frozen berries, with around 70% of the berries destined for export markets in 15 countries.

Once they start working, the Thai berry pickers will have their health situation monitored in case anyone shows flu-like symptoms.

“Nobody likes to have anyone sick, not you or not me” Tommy Gustafsson tells News Now Finland.

In a normal year the migrant workers would usually come to Finland at the end of July and then leave at the end of September or beginning of October at the end of their 10-week contracts.

Bilberries are the first wild crops to be harvested during August, with lingonberries ripening in September.