Most Swedes expect at least three varieties of pickled herring on the table when celebrating ‘Midsummer’, or Midsommar, with the spread often including the classic inlagd sill, löksill (with onion), brännvinssill (with spirits), currysill (with curry), senapssill (with mustard), some sort of local regional recipe, and also the Dutch-style brined matjessill.
But although herrings are still fished both in the Baltic Sea and off Sweden’s West Coast, most of the pickled herring eaten in Sweden is in fact made from herring imported from Norway.
On Friday the existing agreement over the EEA financial mechanism, which among other things, regulates import duties on Norwegian herring, expired.
Jennie Nilsson, Sweden’s agriculture minister, has written a pleading letter to the EU’s fisheries commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius pointing out that herring is a crucial part of Sweden’s celebrations, and also a favourite among the elderly in care facilities.
“Herring and pickled herring has a permanent and undisputed place on every Swedish dining table at more or less every Swedish celebration, be it Midsummer, Christmas or Easter,” she wrote.
“We want to find a solution based around somehow extending the existing agreement while we wait for a new one, and for that to happen seamlessly without disproportionate consequences.”
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At the end of last year, the EU said it would import 5,000 tonnes of Norwegian herring at a customs duty of 10 percent, but this is a fraction of the 17,100 tonnes Sweden has asked to be able to import, without duty.
There is now a risk that the duty will be hiked to 20 percent just as the major pickled herring producers like Abba, and the big supermarkets begin preparing for the celebrations.
“The consequence risk being that it will be extremely expensive for the consumers,” Nilsson told Sweden’s TT newswire. “We think that the consequences for Sweden and Swedish consumers of not finding a temporary solution are not justifiable.”