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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Butter shortage keeps spreading

State agriculture officials cut more regulatory fees on dairy products this week, in another effort to ease a butter shortage that continues to spread all over the country. Meanwhile, one specialty producer was offering butter at a Christmas market in Oslo on Tuesday, at a price that even shocked Norwegian shoppers.

An ordinary box of butter like this has suddenly become a hot commodity in Norway. PHOTO: Views and News

The “gift butter” wrapped up in plastic was priced at NOK 60 for around 250 grams. That means a price of NOK 240 per kilo, or around USD 20 per pound.

Given the scarcity or, more often, total lack of butter in Norwegian grocery stories these days, butter has become a precious commodity that’s in heavy demand. Not even a group of Norwegian women milling around the Christmas market, however, would pay the inflated price. “Make your own,” advised one of them.

Now state officials have cut fees incurred for over-production of milk in Norway in the hopes that will boost milk production and get the raw materials needed for butter-making to local dairy cooperatives like Tine.

It’s Tine, though, that’s frying in its own fat as otherwise passive Norwegian consumers have expressed profound dissatisfaction over the butter shortage. Many have noted that Norway hasn’t experienced shortages like this since World War II, and one of the elderly women at the market repeated the complaint on Tuesday, calling the shortage “completely absurd.” Several dairy farmers also have complained that Tine should have foreseen the looming shortage and urged cuts in regulatory fees earlier to boost milk production, instead of threatening to fine over-production.

Tine is the so-called “market regulator” for milk in Norway and thus responsible for keeping production in line with market demand. The butter shortage is rooted in unusually low milk production this year, said to be a result of poor grazing caused by heavy rains and poor quality feed for cattle in the autumn. At the same time, demand for butter and fatty products has been high, not least because of a low-carbohydrate diet fad.

Around 20 liters of milk is needed to produce one kilo of butter, according to Tine, and Norwegian farmers will have produced 20 million fewer liters of milk this year thanexpected in May. That means a looming shortage of around 50 tons of butter every week through December.

Last week, though, agriculture authorities cut the tariffs imposed on foreign butter to keep it out of the market. That means imported butter may start appearing in local stores soon, but it hasn’t shown up yet. Other northern Nordic countries have been facing butter shortages themselves.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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