Norway imports butter to avert new dairy disaster

Dairy giant Tine has imported 200 tonnes of butter as it seeks to avoid a repeat of last year’s shortage, when cake bakers saw their Christmas plans derailed amid an international chuckle-fest at Norway’s expense.

Norway imports butter to avert new dairy disaster
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In the first half of this year Tine sold almost 3,900 tonnes of butter, 500 tonnes more than the same period last year. But despite the 13-percent increase in butter consumption, milk production has risen by only one percent in the same period, newspaper Nationen reports.

“Milk production so far this year has been around what we expected in terms of volume, but the fat content has been somewhat lower than expected,” said Tine communications director Øystein Knoph.

“Consequently, we bought an import quota of 200 tonnes this spring which enables us to supplement Tine butter with foreign butter made to a Norwegian recipe,” he added.

Knoph said Tine was confident it had done enough to meet future demand, but retailers are not yet fully convinced.

Kine Søyland, a spokeswoman for wholesaler NorgesGruppen, said her firm had grappled for years with the problem of insufficient butter deliveries from Tine, which enjoys a near monopoly position in the Norwegian dairy market.

She warned that shortages are likely to occur among some butter products but added she does not expect a full-blown dairy crisis to develop.

Last year’s shortfall was attributed to a mixture of rising demand amid a high-fat diet fad, and a drop in the supply of raw milk after a wet summer led to lower feed production.

Prohibitively high tariffs on the import of butter also made foreign dairies disinclined to enter the Norwegian market.

With tradition calling for seven different types of biscuits to be baked at Christmas, sly racketeers sold the soft gold on the black market while some desperate hobby bakers took to the internet to get their fix from buy-and-sell sites.

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How Switzerland plans to beat its butter shortage

Switzerland is facing a butter shortage “for the first time in years”, thanks mainly to a surge in cheese production which left little milk at the table for butter producers.

(Illustration) A butter producer gets up close and personal with the good stuff in neighbouring France. Photo: GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP
To make sure Swiss bread doesn’t go unbuttered, the country will (temporarily) change laws to bring butter across the border. 

The Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture said midweek that the country’s butter stores were running dangerously low, with only 2,300 tonnes in reserve – although this amount is up from a low of 1,500 tonnes earlier in Spring. 

In a press release, the Office said “for the first time in years, there is an insufficient supply of Swiss butter for the (local) market.”

“A shortage of butter supply, especially at the end of the year, must be prevented.”

READ: Here's how Switzerland is planning to avoid coronavirus food shortages 

The government was responding to an application from the Swiss milk industry, asking that import quotas be temporarily relaxed to allow more butter across the border. 

An additional 1,000 tonnes will now be allowed across the border, around 2.3 percent of the total sold in Switzerland each year. 

From coffee to nuclear fuel: What you need to know to understand Switzerland's strategic stockpiles 

The exemption will be granted for 2020 only. 

A cheesy excuse

Unlike other supply shortages experienced across the country in recent months, the lack of butter isn’t due only to the coronavirus – although plenty of lockdown-inspired baking is unlikely to help. 

Instead, higher cheese production has meant that less milk fat has been available to produce butter in recent months. 

Milk producers make more money from cheese production than from butter, meaning that when butter’s turn comes around, the pail is dry (or at least a little too empty).