Oslo youngsters stand in for foreign workforce on Norwegian farms

Norwegian farmers have looked to alternative labour resources after foreign workers in areas such as fruit and vegetable picking were temporarily kept away by travel restrictions.

Oslo youngsters stand in for foreign workforce on Norwegian farms
A file photo of a strawberry field in Norway's Nordic neighbour Finland. Photo: AFP

Although the country is now open to tourists from most of Europe, the closure of Norway’s borders by the government at the outset of the coronavirus crisis has impacted labour force on farms which typically hire seasonal workers from countries such as Vietnam, Ukraine and Poland, newspaper VG reports.

Although Norway announced the re-opening of its borders for seasonal workers from the EEA as early as March 30th, the use of local labour as a stand-in has continued in at least one case.

Anders Hørthe, a farmer who produces squash plants, told VG that he initially looked to help from Oslo’s Vestre Aker neighbourhood, which he found assistance in sourcing young people looking for summer holiday work.

Hørthe chose to keep using youth workers when rules were updated to enable seasonal workers from abroad to return to Norway.

“We all know that youth is vital for the future. Youth leaders and groups from Oslo are a resource we are working with. I believe that agriculture has a number of valuable things to offer society. Leadership and helping people to develop while also producing and selling food are pillars of society,” he told VG.


The farmer explained that more senior youth workers are trained so that they can train younger recruits in turn, ensuring safe and efficient processing of the produce.

He added that he saw the use of local young people as potentially benefitting society.

“In recent years, us farmers have had free access to labour from outside of Norway, but I see that some of the important values young people learned in the past [from seasonal work, ed.] have been lost. In that sense, I hope I’m contributing to society,” he said.

READ ALSO: Norway opens up for tourism to and from all but seven EU countries

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Norwegian firm warns high gas prices could impact food production

Soaring prices for natural gas, a key feedstock for producing chemical fertilisers, will weigh on food production and security, a major Norwegian manufacturer warned Wednesday.

Rising gas prices could make food more expensive, Norwegian firm Yara has said. Pictured is the fruit isle on supermarket shelves.
Rising gas prices could make food more expensive, Norwegian firm Yara has said. Pictured is the fruit isle on supermarket shelves.Photo by gemma on Unsplash

Norway-based Yara said that a near fifteenfold rise in European natural gas prices had forced it to reduce its production of ammonia, a key fertiliser component.

“European nitrogen production is essential to global food security, and we are therefore concerned about the impact current European natural gas prices will have, especially for the world’s poorest regions,” chief executive Svein Tore Holsether said in a statement.

As prices for fertilisers rise in the wake of those for natural gas, farmers will be tempted and perhaps forced to cut back on their use. As a consequence, production of food crops could drop.

Holsether pledged Yara will do its utmost to supply farmers and support global food production.

However, he said, “the current situation clearly demonstrates the need for more resilient food supply chains” and called on both government and industry to work together to secure the global food supply.

Rising prices helped Yara’s results overall in the third quarter, with headline sales rising by 46 percent to nearly $4.5 billion.

Operating earnings also improved, but adverse currency effects and writing down the value of a phosphate mining project pushed the firm into a net loss of $143 million.

It earned a net profit of $340 million in the third quarter. Yara shares were up 1.5 percent in afternoon trading, while the main OBX  index was up 1.4 percent.