Cheese export change possible

Jarlsberg possible export subsidy withdrawal leaves bad taste

Photo: TINE Mediebank Jarlsberg may do much less celebrating abroad if the proposal to remove export subsidies goes ahead.

Photo: TINE Mediebank
Jarlsberg may do much less celebrating abroad if the proposal to remove export subsidies goes ahead.

Sarah Bostock & Michael Sandelson
The Foreigner

Norway’s Rightist government revealed the proposal to gradually withdraw all export subsidies for agricultural products by the end of 2019 on May 29.

In a statement the same day, TINE said that they “wish to make it clear that this could have consequences for [both] Jarlsberg and 750 Norwegian dairy farms if this becomes a reality.”

Jarlsberg remains a popular food brand in countries such as the U.S., Australia, and other parts of Europe, according to them.

TINE fears that exports of the cheese could become unprofitable, with 25 percent of sales to foreign countries originating from the Scandinavian country.

Government partners the Liberal (V) and Christian Democratic (KrF) Parties, could put a stopper to the proposal in parliament, however.

Pål Farstad, business policy spokesperson for the Liberals (V), rejects it regarding the timeframe, despite his party being against export subsidies. “Four years is far too short a time for the industry to adapt. The principle is one thing, but one should have long-term conditions and the possibility to adapt,” he told agricultural publication Nationen.

“I wouldn’t call this good political craftsmanship,” KrF business policy spokesperson Line Henriette Hjemdal wrote in a text message to the publication.

Trygve Slagsvold Vedum, leader of increased cheese and meat import duties-implementer the Center Party (Sp), was also critical of the government’s proposition. He described the Rightists announcing what he views as such a dramatic change overnight as “completely incomprehensible.”

“We’re talking about close to ten percent of milk production and several thousand jobs. It’s not possible to conduct politics in that way. Giving away this type of bargaining chip without being engaged in international negotiations is very irresponsible,” said Vedum.

The UN’s FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) Corporate Document repository on Multilateral Trade Negotiations on Agriculture lists their findings on export subsidies. They condemn these due to their high costs to both consumers and taxpayers in the subsidizing country.

“In general, export subsidies increase the share of the exporter in the world market at the cost of others, tend to depress world market prices, and may make them more unstable because decisions on export subsidy levels can be changed unpredictably,” it is stated.

The Progress Party’s (FrP) Minister for Agriculture and Food, Sylvi Listhaug, commented in a statement that “Norwegian consumers currently subsidize Jarlsberg that is sold abroad for [the sum of] over 130 million kroner a year.”

“It’s unreasonable that Norwegian consumers should pay for consumers in other countries being able to buy this cheese at a lower price.”

This article was originally published on The Foreigner. To subscribe to The Foreigner, visit theforeigner.no.

It also appeared in the June 5, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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