Wonders in Finnish Forests
It’s becoming a norm that every summer loads of Thais head to Finnish forests. This rather young phenomena got started year 2005 when 88 Thais arrived in Finland in order to pick Finnish berries – blueberries, lingonberries, cloudberries and cranberries. Since then the number has multiplied. This year about three thousand Thais head to Finland for the maximum period of three months to pick berries.
During a normal summer our forests are full of berries, but picking them is tough work. Berry industry requires big volumes and we Finns pick berries mostly for our own use. Somehow Thais and other nationalities too have found their way to Finland, and Sweden to answer that demand and get some extra income.
Berry picking is normally possible during the summer months from July till September. Our visa services get jammed prior to those months. Not only three thousand berry pickers, but also the others need to have their visa ready for summer. Extra arrangements are required in order to match the demand. Helping hands are recruited and weekends turn into long working days.
Embassy is involved in the process almost throughout the year. We give instructions to berry picking companies in the beginning of each year. Before that we have received reports from them and prognosis of the quotas needed for the upcoming season. Quotas are there to ensure that circumstances meet pickers’ needs, meaning that companies are for example able to arrange accommodation. Incomes of the berry pickers are carefully monitored as well. Berry pickers cover the costs of the trip themselves and their income depends on the amount of picked berries. A bad berry year, due to weather or other unpredictable event may bring unpleasant surprises. It’s therefore important that the income level meets the minimum requirement.
When their visas are done, embassy has a little break before it starts weighting pros and cons. Companies deliver reports about the season, meetings with authorities are arranged in Finland and in Thailand. Also Thai authorities are keen to know how their citizens are doing abroad, if there is space for improvement or information sharing. Researchers are also involved, University of Lapland published last year a study about the berry picking industry. They took a deep look into the system and gave their recommendations.
Foreign berry pickers provide lots of material for Finnish media since everybody seems to have a say on the matter. It’s a public right to pick berries and mushrooms in Finnish forests, everybody is free to enjoy it and sell the findings. Commercialization and use of foreign work force has brought new flavour to the discussion. Altogether about twelve thousand foreigners are involved in berry picking, most of them work in the berry farms. Thais have found their way to forests and that’s what raises eyebrows and puts them into the limelight.
New picking season stats soon, we wish good yield for everybody!