Norway wants to increase the Norwegian cultivation of grain, fruit and vegetables in order to make the country more self-sufficient. This became clear when agricultural organisations and the government agreed on a new agricultural decision last week.
Negotiations between the growers' unions and the government started on the weekend of 25th of April and the deadline to come to an agreement was Thursday, but the parties had already reached an understanding on Thursday morning. Agreements were made easily. There were no requirements on the table, but negotiations were underway to amend agreements that already existed.
Minister of Agriculture and Food Olaug Bollestad: “The parties agree on renewed agreements to give growers and food production more certainty. Agriculture is still relatively unaffected economically by the corona pandemic, but food production is of such great social importance that it was important to reach an agreement as soon as possible. The agreement puts grain, fruit and vegetables cultivation first, but also contains agreements on climate and environment.”
The reason that grain, potatoes, fruit and vegetables are now given priority is to improve the economy and increase self-sufficiency as it is lower in this area than in meat production. The new agreement will apply from 1st of July and the prices of food products will also be adjusted.
More focus on Norwegian food
The Corona crisis has also increased Norwegian food production, something that Lars Petter Bartnes, chairman of Norges Bondelag, the largest union for Norwegian growers, is pleased with: “More and more people are seeing the value of Norwegian agriculture and the need for Norwegian growers. That is why it was important for us to start the negotiations this spring and not to wait until autumn. Agriculture is lagging behind other industries in terms of income development, but it was not time to have that discussion. We will come back to that matter in 2021, when we can conduct 'normal' negotiations.”
But while there is more demand in supermarkets for food grown in Norway, the industry has faced challenges since the catering industry has closed. Kjersti Hoff, leader of Norsk Bonde- og Småbrukerlag, one of the interest groups for farmers and growers, believes that the new agreement shows that there is a need for more farmers and growers in Norway. It must therefore pay to be a farmer/ grower, so that more people choose this career.
Glad that potatoes are also given priority
Ivar Skramstad, a grain and potato grower in Eastern Norway: “I am happy that new agreements have been made so that we do not have to continue with the old agreement. At first glance, it looks positive, but we have yet to see the details. I am happy that grain and potatoes are also a priority in the deal. They are often forgotten when talking about fruit and vegetables. The agreement is important because agriculture is likely to be hit for the third year in a row: last year the rains washed us away, the year before that was much too dry and now we are in the Corona crisis. The situation is particularly critical for fruit and vegetable growers, with regard to labour.”
As has been known for some time, due to the pandemic, Norwegian growers are facing the challenge of obtaining enough manpower this season. The Norwegian state has already relaxed the rules to make it easier for growers to recruit. There is still great uncertainty among growers: many have chosen to grow less, while others have managed to gather enough manpower for sowing.
The collapsed Norwegian krone also poses challenges, says potato grower Skramstad: “The price of technical equipment has risen by about 20 to 30 percent since mid-March and I expect fertiliser prices to rise just as fast. Then the grain price would have to increase by at least 20 percent to match the costs, but I see that as a utopia.”
However, compensation for the increased expenditure resulting from the Corona crisis was not discussed in the negotiations last week. Chairman of Norges Bondelag, Bartnes: "We know that vegetable growers have higher costs and face uncertainty, so we have to keep a close eye on that."