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Sweden safe while butter shortage hits Norway

Published: 11 Dec 2011 16:29 GMT+01:00

Many Norwegians who live close to Sweden do their grocery shopping across the border where prices are lower, but to import butter has proven more difficult.

"They (Norway) have, as we see it, very restrictive trading politics, borderline protectionist," Jonas Carlberg at the Swedish Dairy Association (Svensk Mjölk) told daily Dagens Nyheter, adding that the high custom duty is a way to protect domestic production in Norway.

But the shortage has made people turn to desperate measures, according to news agency TT.

A Russian man was caught on Friday trying to bring 90 kilogrammes of butter over the Swedish border to Norway without paying the custom duty.

And the emerging black market is making some attempt to make some well-needed money before Christmas by auctioning out their butter online.

"I want 800 kronor, at least. Then I can give 400 kronor to each of my children's sports teams," one would-be butter vendor, Tove Li, told Norwegian paper Verdens Gang (VG).

"I've seen an ad where they wanted 5,000 kronor ($740) for a box of butter."

But the black market butter isn't just draining consumers of money, it might also be a health hazard, according to Atle Wold at the Norwegian Food Safety Authority.

"Food should be purchased from professional and safe vendors, not in a private environment," Wold told VG.

However, despite the autumn's Scandinavian butter shortage still causing Norway trouble, Swedes don't have to fear another deficit scuppering their Christmas baking.

Due to an increased import, the butter situation is Sweden is currently under control.

"We aren't expecting any Swedish shortages before Christmas, it should remain stable," Carlberg told TT.

TT/Joel Linde (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

19:02 December 11, 2011 by Beavis
There is no butter shortages. This is simply Arla foods abusing their monopolisation of the market again. While there is excess butter in Denmark, there is somehow a shortage across the border, yet the same company is supplying all 3 countries. I hope the EU competition authorities finally investigate this shower.
19:29 December 11, 2011 by just a question
Talking about monopoly, the only milk you can buy in Norway is Tine (a Norwegian monopoly). A litter of milk costs more than a litter of gasoline. They wouldn't have shortage of butter if the Norwegian government allow the entrance of European products. They have a real problem with this protectionism. Vegetables cost a fortune and they arrive to the shelves almost rotten. So much money and still so poor.
20:20 December 11, 2011 by Puffin
It will come to Sweden as well if the Swedish authorities continue to allow Arla to put all rival companies out of business - just look at Milko being put out of business - and this despite police investigations into Arla's business methods
21:58 December 11, 2011 by bjorkon
Agreed. Where is the butter and milk from other suppliers? And do away with tetrapak as well while you're at it .. shytee cardboard nonsense !
00:38 December 12, 2011 by Dimukas
This is funny, no butter!!!

Like in old Soviet Union time ===))))

The most interesting is that in Sweden there are luck of other tasty products,

Willis and other supermarkets are boring and has no assortiment or choise at all.
01:11 December 12, 2011 by Gamla Hälsingebock
Why can't Norway produce it's own butter?

I don't see any reason why Norwegian farms cannot produce this product...if there is please don't keep it secret...let us all know.
02:13 December 12, 2011 by maxbrando
All you socialists should be happy with state control. It is, after all, what the majority of you continually vote for. Why don' you occupy the butter ministerium? You must have one since there is such great control of butter, milk and other dairy products. Or, it might be next to the Foreign Ministerium. Ha Ha.
07:37 December 12, 2011 by Mpf
Anyone tried buying frozen carrots lately?

ICA and COOP just don't seem to be selling them anymore unless they are mixed with other veggies!

Maybe there is a carrot shortage too which we haven't been told about.
08:58 December 12, 2011 by SaxSymbol73
I question the timing of this whole "shortage": when are people using the most butter in this part of the world? The Christmas holiday, primarily for baking. It seems quite convenient that there is now a shortage, and I question Arla's *possible* involvement.

If Norway can't produce enough butter to meet demands for the holidays, Norwegian consumers will demand a change to the system. And who better than to supply them than the Danish near-monopoly Arla?

Norway does indeed have high import tariffs, primarily to protect their local industries and producers. Paying to maintain local production costs money and I personally would rather pay higher prices than end up with food coming from unsafe countries like China. Any country that would knowingly poison their own children with large scale collusion with poisoned milk is not in any place that I want to trust my stomach or money supporting.
09:23 December 12, 2011 by just a question
"Norway does indeed have high import tariffs, primarily to protect their local industries and producers"

Do you think that the money goes to the local producers? Nej nej, the only milk multinational of the country will pay crap to the farmers, and they will sell the milk/butter like if it was gasoline. The only way to fight these multinationals is to buy local products directly from the farmers, or in the supermarket. Coop in Sweden (not in Norway, because of the dairy mafia) sells local products, look in the dairy shelf.
13:20 December 12, 2011 by KungsholmenGuy
Tariffs should be waived or reduced during times of shortages, if local producers cannot meet demand.

Interesting article on the perceived vs actual wealth of Norwegians:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/17/weekinreview/17bawer.html?scp=3&sq=norway+oil+lunch&st=nyt
13:30 December 12, 2011 by muscle
oh my crisis situation!
14:22 December 13, 2011 by philster61
Smor-less-bord........lol
18:49 December 13, 2011 by samwise
"Food should be purchased from professional and safe vendors, not in a private environment,"

people did just that for thousands of years, and a lot of people still do. feels like all Norwegians are living in a gigantic kindergarten.
00:43 December 14, 2011 by Bolante007
just so you guys know, the local's article on butter was feature on The Colbert Report last night!!! :)
03:42 December 14, 2011 by slandden
For all you guys talking about market concentration, perspective from Bellingham, Washington, USA

Here the smaller local dairy Edaleen was able to out-compete the milk-cooperative Dairygold because it didn't have all the diesel refrigerated transport/storage costs, winning over contracts with all the local school. Apparently this was a theme in a few places across the US, and there was a lobby to force all medium sized dairies to dissolve into the big suppliers or pay an extra tax, or shrink down to a smaller, uncompetitive, size. This didn't go through. Not sure if the smaller dairy still has the school contracts.
14:31 December 14, 2011 by Streja
The new york times article was complete rubbish.
16:27 December 16, 2011 by eovti
@just a question:

"Talking about monopoly, the only milk you can buy in Norway is Tine (a Norwegian monopoly)."

Where did you get that idea? The milk from the "Q dairies" takes up just as much space in the stores.

Granted, Q is still smaller than Tine, but they're a serious competitor.
18:46 December 16, 2011 by mbss
With globalisation, good companies learn bad habits from bad companies. When I lived in Chicago, prior to moving to Sweden a decade ago, I can say that the county and city were embroiled in class action suits by local citizens who were trying, without much luck, to fight organized crime cartels that control the dairy industry in the area. Butter prices between 1990 and 2000 went from 79 cents a pound to over 5 dollars a pound. It had nothing to do with free markets, that's for sure!
05:31 December 18, 2011 by Lotec
wow.. there's a lot of false information going on here :-)

Yes, there was a period with limmited access to butter (made from milk, and not the stuff made by plant oils). But there was never a crisis.

Why was there a shortage. Well there are many reasons, and here they are in no particular order:

Most people read the same stuff and watch the same stuff on TV - when it comes to news. Since there are not that much going on, the media have to hype up some news. The start of the butter crisis :-)

Some (too many) believes this and buy butter so they can make at least 7 different Christmas cookies (as is tradition in Norway).

Low carbo diet hype in Norway - so more people use butter. Less oils.

When some people believe there is a shortage they buy much more then they need. I saw a woman buy 30kg of butter.. Anyway. . idiots.. we have them too.

The largest dairy in Norway makes (of cource) most of the butter. They realised there would be to little butter, but they didn't start to import butter straight away. They wanted it to become a crisis so they could import it tax free from Belgium, like they did a few weeks back.

Norway has a lot of taxes on most food products to secure at least 40% domestic production of food. Hence it is not profitable to import butter to Norway. High cost of labour, hard climate and a rough terrain makes farming in Norway very expensive. In order to reduse the cost of food, the farmers get state subsidies. Still.. 1 liter of milk cost more then twice as much as in Denmark - which is basically as flat as a Midwestern state. Perfect for farming, and a shitty place for rock climbing, base jumping, white water paddling and so on.

In order to keep farmers all over Norway they are protected, or we would have close to no food industry in Norway.

We have only 2 national dairies in Norway - and a few local ones. it is not a super profitable business. High costs.

Oh yeah... back to the low carbo diet again.. people eat much more meat now - so many farmers sent the cows to the slaughterhouse earlier then before. They are only allowed to sell a certain amont of milk a year. If the dairies told them to produce more milk they could. More milk = more butter.

If there was a real crisis - people would just buy butter when travelling abroad... which most of us does at least 5-6 times a year in average. If you buy 6kg of butter every time you were abroad it would be 175 million tonns a year in Norway..

If that was the case we would have to import a hell of a lot of heart surgeon too .

The insane prices people have placed online is just for fun and to get some attention. They could fly to another country and back to buy butter for 1/10 of the price mentioned. The reporter needs a reality check.

I'm sure the reporter that first made the butter shortage news smilies all the way to the bank. Being able to sell the new to all the local/national papers AND many foreign newspapers as well.
18:34 December 20, 2011 by larsonczoty
Egad! I live in Chicago. I have never seen butter over $5 a pound. Where did you shop?
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