Growers were instructed to grow more organic fruit and vegetables, but consumers don't buy it. Instead, it is sold as regular fruit according to Lars J. Nå: who says "I lose about 80 cents per kilo."
The plum season is particularly good this year. According to Bama (Norway's largest fruit and vegetable distributor), 400 tonnes more than usual have already been harvested. It has also been busy for organic grower Lars J. Nå. “It's a very good season. I have already harvested around 15 tons and there will probably be another three tons." Nå says.
But a record number of plums harvested is not good news for organic growers.
Organic is not selling
At Hardanger Fjordfrukt, in Western Norway, they experience difficulties with selling the organic plums. If the organic plums are not ordered, due to their short shelf life, they are packaged and sold as normal plums.
Managing Director Sigbjørn Brusletto: "So far, 37 tons of organic plums have arrived, of which only 3.8 tons have actually been sold as organic."
It appears that the trend of last year is continuing. In 2018, only a fourth of organic plums in Norway were sold as organic product.
Nå: “Organic fruit turnover increased by 40 percent between 2015 and 2017, but it turned around last year. I find it surprising because there are so many environmental conscious consumers now. "
Lots of losses
Organic plums cost on average 25 percent more than regular plums. If 90 percent of the organic plums from Hardanger are sold as regular plums, organic growers feel it in their wallets. Nå: “I lose a little more than 80 cents per kilo. For me, it sums up to a loss of around 14,000 euros. That money should have compensated for the extra work of organic cultivation."
It is up to the supermarkets whether they buy ordinary or organic plums. This year, Bama expects to deliver 1400 tonnes of plums. Only 40 tonnes of this is organic.
Commercial director Pia Gulbrandsen: “The interest in organic fruit and vegetables is not particularly great in Norway. The sale is around 2.5 percent. It seems that consumers are satisfied with buying regular fruit and vegetables."
Not to be found in the store
Økologisk Norge, an organisation that promotes organic food and organic farming, believes that sales are falling because the products cannot be found in the store. Director Børre Solberg: “The organic growers are told that consumers do not want their fruit and vegetables, but that is not the case. The growers who sell through alternative channels notices a lot of interest. We think that consumers do not know that organic products are available in supermarkets."
In 2010, the Norwegian parliament set a target, that 15 percent of the cultivation and consumption should be organic by 2020. In 2018, the target was scratched. Økologisk Norge is now asking for concrete and quantified objectives. Solberg: "Clear measures must be taken so that the consumer knows that organic fruits and vegetables are available in the store."
But the cause of declining interest in organic fruit and vegetables remains a mystery.
Sigbjørn Brusletto: “Norwegians seem more interested in locally grown vegetables than in organic vegetables. In addition, they have great confidence in the quality of fruit and vegetables grown in Norway. Even so much that they don't feel that there is a difference. This means that they are not prepared to pay more for it."