New ‘butter crisis’ looms

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Officials at Norwegian dairy cooperative Tine are trying to ward off another looming “butter crisis” like the one that left grocery store shelves bare of butter last winter. They blame the new shortage on Norwegian cattle who aren’t producing enough milk.

Packages of butter like the one in green and gold on top are showing up in Norwegian grocery stores, imported from France but reportedly made according to Tine’s Norwegian recipe. The price, however, is no lower than Tine’s Norwegian pricing, despite the lower costs and prices in France. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Tine, which controls 80 percent of the market for dairy products in Norway, is importing more butter and told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Sunday night that imports likely will continue for several years. That’s because there’s not enough milk and fat in the Norwegian dairy market to make the butter needed to meet demand.

Tine’s boss, Hanne Refsholt, is back on the job after taking a year of fully paid leave for a mid-career study break right when last year’s butter shortage hit. She recently told newspaper Aftenposten that she was responsible for the butter shortage, saying “we should have seen the situation with butter before I started my studies last year.”

Tine officials, who enjoy privileged positions because of the country’s protectionist agricultural policies, claim they’re trying to win back consumer confidence, which fell badly when Tine failed in its role as so-called “market regulator.” They’re now trying to cut costs and Refsholt even admitted that some of Norway’s agricultural policies are no longer in line with consumption patterns.

“There have been some rapid changes in consumption that challenge the policies and programs we have today,” she said. Government officials nonetheless recently approved higher important tariffs on cheese as well as meat, to protect Norwegian products and prices, a move that’s unpopular with many consumers and may further damage Tine’s reputation.

newsinenglish.no staff