Norwegian consumer demand drives organic grain subsidies

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Agriculture, Organic farming, Norway

The Norwegian Agricultural Authority (SLF) has announced a one-third increase in subsidies to organic grain farmers in an effort to meet ambitious government targets and growing consumer demand.

The SLF launched a 1m krone campaign this week (approximately €119,000 at today’s rates) to provide information and advice to grain farmers who wish to switch to organic methods. In 2011-12 the government intends to make an extra 30m krone (€3.54m) available to increase the subsidy to organic grain farmers from 3000 to 4000 krone per hectare.

In 2005, the Norwegian government stated its aim for 15 per cent of both food production and consumption to be organic by 2015, but only 4.8 per cent of Norway’s agricultural land was organically managed by the end of 2007. Currently, organic grain makes up only two to three per cent of that.

SFL senior adviser Emil Mohr told BakeryandSnacks.com: “The government target started from an environmental perspective and then consumer expectations. Lately there has been more and more information on how organic can contribute in a positive way for the climate and for health…We believe that what the consumer asks for should be produced in Norway so we want to get the highest possible production in the country itself.”

He said that at the moment supply of organic grain is not keeping up with that demand, creating a bottleneck in the production chain: consumers want more organic produce but there is not enough grain available as either food or feed.

Organic conversion

Mohr also said that the government recognises that converting from conventional farming methods, particularly for arable farmers, can be a painful process, especially in terms of achieving the right balance of nutrients in the soil.

He said that one of the SFL’s strategies is to increase the amount of animal manure used in arable farming, but there is a structural problem in that grain and livestock are generally produced in different parts of the country.

“We can’t expect more conversion and we will not have a chance to reach this target unless we have a higher grant,”​ he said, “We want our organic farming to be a leading star for trying other different ways of handling weeds and having more polyculture. There is also the challenge of how to build a good organic system, so we give a good grant for using green manure.”

For the time being, any extra organic grain produced in Norway will go towards filling the current shortfall in the Norwegian supply chain, although there may be opportunities for export production from as soon as 2009.

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