The Norwegian government has decided to allow certain overseas seasonal laborers into the country again. These are those working in the agricultural and floricultural sectors. The decision was made at the beginning of May. The Finnish government, too, eased some of its measures at that time. But, there, seasonal workers are gradually being allowed back in.
In Norway, the border has reopened for migrant workers from non-European Economic Area (EEA) countries. The Minister of Agriculture and Food, Olaug Bollestad, says “I am pleased we have now amended the rules."
"Seasonal agricultural workers can now come to work in that sector. That is important for our production. Many growers have been bringing in non-EEA migrant laborers for years now. Now, they can allow the workers they need to come over."
The Norwegian government points out one thing - overseas seasonal laborers have to adhere to the country's quarantine regulations at all times.
Norwegian farmers are, of course, pleased with these relaxed rules. There is, however, also an urgent need. Strawberries have to be harvested in a few weeks. It remains to be seen if these seasonal workers will arrive in the country on time.
Flights have not started in many countries. Simen Myhrene and Marius Egge are both strawberry farmers. They are, therefore, considering organizing a charter flight along with other growers. Myhrene and Egge both employ migrant workers from Vietnam.
In Myhrene's case, they have worked in Norway every summer for almost 15 years already. Jørn Eugen Haslestad is the Norwegian Fruit Growers' Union's secretary. He is assisting the growers in finding solutions. He calls the charter flight solution creative but expensive to execute.
Seasonal workers will also first have to go into quarantine. That is after they arrive in Norway and before they may start working. Myhrene, therefore, also fears for expensive strawberries. All these costs need to be covered.
There are not only quarantine regulations. Growers have to take stringent hygienic measures too. He expects supermarkets will sell a punnet of strawberries for no less than 50 crowns (€4.50).
In Finland, the border will not be entirely reopened at once. The government is granting access to small groups. It was announced earlier that 1,500 Ukrainian workers could come to work on Finnish farms. Last week, the government decided to allow 3,000 more seasonal workers.
These are probably also from Ukraine. The authorities have also eased the rules around asylum seekers. The waiting period is being scrapped. They can, therefore, work in the Finnish agricultural sector. This regulation pertains to about 1,000 asylum seekers.
The Finnish government has also decided to relax unemployment payouts. The unemployed always received €300 without it affecting their benefits. This has now been increased to €500.