New shortages may follow butter

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Some retailers in Norway fear that new shortages loom because of state dairy cooperative Tine’s desperation to make more butter. That may result in the current butter shortage turning into a glut, while cream and beef go into short supply.

Some cows are being allowed to live longer, to produce more milk, instead of being slaughtered for meat. PHOTO: Views and News

Newspaper VG reported that the butter shortage that’s plagued Norwegians for weeks has prompted dairy farmers to keep milking their cows instead of slaughtering them for meat. Tine needs more milk to make butter, and the farmers are stepping up production after Tine removed regulatory quotas to prevent over-production.

Arne-Jakob Jakobsen in Melhus in Trøndelag has thus prolonged the lives of some of his 130 dairy cattle who were due to be slaughtered for meat in December and January. “Most farmers are satisfied that we now can produce as much milk as we can (without facing fines for exceeding quotas),” Jakobsen told VG, even though he said the quota elimination “came too late.” Now he’s happy to earn more money by selling more milk.

Some worry that the massive efforts now being made to get butter back on grocery store shelves will leave producers, wholesalers and grocery stores sitting with a lot of butter in January, when production is supposed to revert to normal. Retailing firm NorgesGruppen, which runs Meny, Kiwi, Spar and Joker stores in Norway, among others, is cautioning its grocery store managers to be careful when ordering butter supplies, to avoid a glut.

Jakobsen runs one of the largest dairy cattle operations in Trøndelag and said that cows due to be slaughtered in December and January will now live until March. Other farmers are delaying slaughter as well.

That led retail chain ICA to worry that beef supplies will run short after New Year. “Our suppliers have told us that they can land in a situation where lockers are empty,” Lise Mette Kjellberg of ICA told VG.

Meat producer Nortura downplayed such concerns, though, and Jakobsen also doesn’t think they’re warranted. “The biggest challenge is that there are too many farmers quitting because of poor economy,” he said.

Skimming the cream
Tine, meanwhile, warned ICA that it may have problems delivering cream before Christmas, but later denied shelves would run bare. Cream is another popular dairy item at Christmas in Norway, used, for example, to make the rice porridge dessert called riskrem, various sauces and as whipped cream for cakes.

“We have received a notice from Tine that it can be a problem to deliver all the cream needed for Christmas,” Bjørn Takle Friis of ICA Norge told newspaper Aftenposten. Olga Fjeldskaar, who runs the ICA grocery store on Frognerveien in Oslo, said the recent butter crisis reminded her of what it was like growing up in the former Soviet Union.

“I never thought this would happen in Norway,” she told Aftenposten. “If my customers can’t get cream either, it’s very bad.”

Purchasing managers at other grocery stores including REMA 1000, Coop and NorgesGruppen have not received the same warning that ICA did. Tine officials claim they’ll have enough supply to avert a cream crisis.

“There is usually high consumption both before and during Christmas here in Norway,” said Tine’s communications director, Elisabeth Morthen. “We will be able to cover this consumption.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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