Norway decides farming matters

12 October 2001

Norway decides farming matters

Food security and the preservation of rural communities are

taken very seriously in Norway, as John Farrant explains

NORWAYS farmers campaigned hard to stay out of the European Union and many years later they can reflect on their success with pleasure.

Although they must conform to similar rules, they can afford to because they are well supported by their government that operates a policy aimed at food security, rural communities – keeping people in areas of low population – and the environment.

To keep small farms in business there are limits on how many poultry can be owned, while prices are kept up by border protection. This could bring problems in WTO negotiations, but agriculture minister Per Harald Grue says his country will see safeguards for its agricultural industry, food safety and animal health.

Its isolation and small population of 4.4m are some protection in themselves from disease and cut price imports. The low incidence of salmonella in livestock is countered by 90% of such infections in humans being brought from abroad.

&#42 Size limits

In 1975 the size of flocks was limited to 5000 birds, with the average flock size numbering just 875. Norway has a total of 3.2m layers, of which 96% are kept in cages, the balance being barn. Size limits apply to pig, poultry and egg production and the enterprise must be linked to agriculture, with the aim of preserving mixed family farms.

Livestock accounts for three-quarters of farm income. Only 3% of the countrys area is farmed but, including fishing, it still produces 50% of food supplies. Production from the rugged landscape of mountains interspersed by fjords and lakes means there is a farm on every bit of soil. But those farms are small, averaging only 12ha (30 acres) and with an average field size of just 1.5ha (3.7 acres).

However, the Gulf Stream helps crops flourish in the short growing season and livestock spend most of the year inside.

With production in so many hands, agricultural co-operatives are vital and an organisation called Prior handles over two-thirds of eggs and poultry meat production. It is strong in product development and aims to have an egg product for every meal at all times of the year.

A levy on all poultry meat and eggs production by the Norwegian Egg and White Meat Marketing Board is used for market development and promotion.

&#42 Broadly in step

Welfare regulations planned for the next few years are broadly in step with the EU. This month, decisions are due to be made on timing and stocking densities for enriched cages and floor systems.

There is still a majority in Norway against EU membership, according to Bernt Aas, managing director of the Federation of Norwegian Co-operatives, who points out they have voted twice to stay out – first in 1972 and then in 1994.

The philosophy, apart from the farming benefits of independence, is that the economy is based on raw materials and the second is the distance from Brussels.

"Others put it this way – it is better to be something strange outside the EU than a province inside," he adds.

&#8226 John Farrant is editor of Poultry World, FWs sister magazine.

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