The outbreak of covid-19 amongst a group of Thai berry pickers in August in Finland was a cause for concern but overall the summer season was good, at least from the Thai pickers’ point of view were the best managed to earn what would have been years of income in their home country of Thailand.
According to YLE, during their two-and-a-half-month berry-picking contract in Finland, some Thai pickers earned what equals to as much as fifteen years of income in Thailand.
Jukka Kristo, CEO of the Finnish berry company Polarica conforms that the best pickers in his company have net earnings of EUR 12,000 on their placards with the average being just under EUR 4,000 net.
“The annual income in the farmer segment in Thailand is about EUR 800, and when it comes to an average net earning of just under EUR 4,000, it is big. And for those whose earnings approach EUR 12,000, it’s so big that the pickers can do a lot of things for their family – with these two and a half months of earnings.” Jukka Kristo says.
A large number of Thai berry pickers coming to Finland work in agriculture and mainly in rice plantations in Thailand where the income level is very low. EUR 12,000 corresponds to 15 years’ salary for rice cultivation, he adds.
Polarica had 1,150 Thai pickers in Finland this season and the Finnish berry picking season is well suited for the Thai pickers, as rice plantations in Thailand do not need labor during the rainy season in July – September. When the berry season in Finland ends at the beginning of October, the rice harvest will start in Thailand.
Thai pickers are used to hard work and they typically work long hours. The day usually starts at six in the morning and ends around nine in the evening. Berry processing companies always strive to keep their pickers in the most profitable berry locations so it is in the common interest of both the company and the pickers that pickers move with the harvest.
This year, for the first time, the Berry Companies Agreement included a statutory guaranteed salary for pickers, but only a few pickers relied on it, according to the companies.
According to Jukka Kristo, the year as a whole was “just ok”. The blueberry harvest was a question mark before the start of the season, but the humidity of early June resulted in picking continuing for a historically long time.