Norwegian farmers seem to be going from famine to feast this year, with optimal weather conditions yielding what are expected to be record large crops. It’s a sharp contrast from last year’s drought, which resulted in a huge state bailout.
There’s little likelihood the farmers will offer to repay any of the NOK 1.6 billion they received in extra taxpayer support, but looming profits can reduce their tendency to seek even more subsidy. Newspaper Aftenposten reports that last year’s drought, the worst since 1947, ended with 14,950 claims from farmers for compensation, an extraordinarily high amount.
Now the farmers may wind up with nearly as extraordinary gains from record harvests. Last year’s dry fields are now green and lush all over southern Norway. “We have large and strong plants after lots of rain and sunshine,” grain grower Thorvald Ungersness told Aftenposten as he looked out over his fields in Enebakk, southeast of Oslo.
The farmers are characteristically cautious and won’t celebrate good fortune before harvesting is completed. The favourable weather conditions need to continue through July and August: “Those months are critical in order to crown the year,” Ungersness said.
He claims he lost “several hundred thousand” kroner on the drought last year that literally dried up farmers’ crops in his own Østfold County and in Oppland, Akershus, Buskerud and Hedmark. Northern Norway fared better, and crops there are looking green and lush in Nordland as well this year.
Worst for some farmers was the need to slaughter livestock because grain and grass used for cattlefeed dried up as well. Feed had to be imported from the north and from abroad, at much higher cost.
If all goes well, Ungersness may earn at least as much as he lost last year. Others are expecting similar turnarounds.
“This year’s summer is much better than last year,” allowed John Petter Løvstad, the new leader of the national organization representing small farmers, Norsk Bonde- og Småbrukarlag. If it hadn’t rained as much as it did in many areas last month, he even predicts the season could be pretty close to perfect.
Farmers raising vegetables, potatoes, fruit and berries are also unusually cheerful. Despite some late frosts this spring, the head of the national gardeners’ federation Katrine Meberg said the outlook was now good for apples and pears. Those raising cherries were unhappy, because of frost damage to their crops, but raspberry season is shaping up well and strawberries are plentiful.