As berry harvesting season begins next month, Northeasterners will flock to Swedish forests in droves for a chance to make money while their rice paddies grow at home.
Picking wild berries in Sweden is a popular job for Thai workers from northeastern provinces. As the three-month berry picking season in the Scandinavian country starts next month, many northeastern workers are again preparing to travel there as berry pickers.
The work is popular among workers in Chaiyaphum, Nakhon Ratchasima, Khon Kaen, Buri Ram, Maha Sarakham, Udon Thani and Surin province.
Most workers pay more than 100,000 baht on travel and living expenses during their stay.
The berry picking season also fits in well with their paddy farming obligations at home. Most berry pickers are paddy farmers. They usually begin growing rice on their fields in June.
While waiting for their rice to grow, they will take on other jobs to earn extra money.
Many will leave their villages to work before returning to harvest their paddy five to six months later.
Wild berries in Sweden yield fruit from July to September.
Berry pickers, mostly workers from overseas, will pick berries from public berry forests throughout the country and sell that produce to local firms.
A source from a job placement business said several firms were advertising in northeastern provinces for seasonal workers to travel to Sweden to work as berry pickers.
Often Thai berry pickers are persuaded to go to Sweden by Thai women who had married Swedish nationals.
They enter Sweden with tourist visas, but spend their two or three months there as berry pickers.
Ten years ago, a round-trip ticket to Sweden cost 38,000 baht while living expenses in the country were low.
Berry pickers now pay between 77,000 and 120,000 baht for travel and living expenses have also increased.
The number of berry pickers in Sweden keeps rising every year. They come from Thailand, China, Russia and Poland.
The berry picking groups leave Thailand for Sweden in June, said the job placement source.
This year, Thai berry pickers will arrive in Sweden later than usual because the Swedish government has imposed measures to protect Thai workers from exploitative job placement firms after berry pickers lodged complaints with the Thai government last year.