Norway imports butter to avert new dairy disaster

Dairy giant Tine has imported 200 tonnes of butter as it seeks to avoid a repeat of last year’s shortage, when cake bakers saw their Christmas plans derailed amid an international chuckle-fest at Norway’s expense.

Norway imports butter to avert new dairy disaster
Colbert Nation Screenshot

In the first half of this year Tine sold almost 3,900 tonnes of butter, 500 tonnes more than the same period last year. But despite the 13-percent increase in butter consumption, milk production has risen by only one percent in the same period, newspaper Nationen reports.

“Milk production so far this year has been around what we expected in terms of volume, but the fat content has been somewhat lower than expected,” said Tine communications director Øystein Knoph.

“Consequently, we bought an import quota of 200 tonnes this spring which enables us to supplement Tine butter with foreign butter made to a Norwegian recipe,” he added.

Knoph said Tine was confident it had done enough to meet future demand, but retailers are not yet fully convinced.

Kine Søyland, a spokeswoman for wholesaler NorgesGruppen, said her firm had grappled for years with the problem of insufficient butter deliveries from Tine, which enjoys a near monopoly position in the Norwegian dairy market.

She warned that shortages are likely to occur among some butter products but added she does not expect a full-blown dairy crisis to develop.

Last year’s shortfall was attributed to a mixture of rising demand amid a high-fat diet fad, and a drop in the supply of raw milk after a wet summer led to lower feed production.

Prohibitively high tariffs on the import of butter also made foreign dairies disinclined to enter the Norwegian market.

With tradition calling for seven different types of biscuits to be baked at Christmas, sly racketeers sold the soft gold on the black market while some desperate hobby bakers took to the internet to get their fix from buy-and-sell sites.

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Tasty foreign cheeses ‘too cheap’: dairy giant

Norway's vast dairy cooperative Tine, which enjoys a near monopoly on the domestic market, has called for the country to impose much higher import duties on quality foreign cheeses.

Tasty foreign cheeses 'too cheap': dairy giant
Photo: Stephanie Berghaeuser

With the import of cheese from abroad up by 14 percent last year, Tine is concerned that domestic producers will start to feel the pinch unless the government takes action, newspaper Aftenposten reports.

“We want higher barriers for the import of cheese. This is needed to safeguard Norwegian products,” managing director Stein Øiom told the newspaper.

If Tine gets its way, customers already paying through the nose for their foreign Brie, Cheddar or Gruyère will likely see another major jump in prices.

Tine wants tariffs to be set as a percentage of the price of the cheeses in their home countries. Currently, customs duty is paid at a fixed rate per kilo, regardless of the quality of the cheese, the paper said.

Often accused of blatant trade protectionism, Tine makes little secret of the fact that it would rather Norwegian cheese eaters opted for domestic alternatives.

“We have Norwegian Brie and Camembert, made by Dovre for example. That’s tasty,” said Øiom.

Tine sought in vain to have import tariffs increased for cheese in last year’s agricultural policy negotiations. With a fresh round of talks imminent , Øiom hopes the government will change its mind in light of the growing success of foreign cheeses.

Tine found itself the butt of international ridicule last year after Norway fell victim to an acute butter shortage when the cooperative failed to supply the market with enough raw milk.