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Sunday, May 19, 2024

State strikes quick deal with farmers

Norway’s annual negotiations with chronically dissatisfied farmers were shortened and simplified this year, because of extraordinary conditions created by the Corona virus crisis. Existing agreements were extended and the framework for food production clarified, “and that’s more important than ever,” stated the outgoing head of the national farmers’s organization Norges Bondelag.

Lars Petter Bartnes, who’ll be ending his term as the farmers’ leader in June, noted how uncertainty and unpredictability over the times ahead made it difficult to negotiate in detail this year. State negotiators made it clear they’d like to see more Norwegian production of grain, fruit and vegetables, to make the country more self-sufficient.

Agriculture Minister Olaug Bollestad of the Christian Democrats has earlier claimed that Norway already is self-sufficient regarding meat, fish, eggs, milk and dairy products, potatoes and root vegetables, drawing objections from farmers who seek more import protection. The call for more fruit and vegetables, therefore, can be viewed as a conciliatory gesture to appease farmers before a new round of more detailed negotiations begins next year.

Meanwhile, Bollestad stressed that the deal struck this week will “give farmers greater predictability” and noted that they’re not as adversely affected by the Corona epidemic as other businesses. If anything, grocery sales have jumped after restaurants were closed and Norwegians must do far more shopping and food preparation at home. Farmers still, however, face challenges bringing in enough foreign labour to harvest such products as strawberries, and their restaurant sales have dried up.

The new agreement that already provides subsidies and tariff protection, now valued at around NOK 350 million, will take effect from July 1. staff



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