Norway produces all of its own dairy: milk, cheese, and butter.
Much like New Zealand, the dairy industry here is tightly regulated, and controlled by a monolith, Tine AS.
And, as in New Zealand, while it’s technically possible for farmers to choose who they sell their milk to, in practice they do not have a choice.
Tine controls everything.
And now they have made a blunder.
Someone in accounting, or maybe it was finance, or maybe it was the new project manager from Sweden, no-one knows who exactly, but someone miscalculated the country’s butter requirements for December and January.
The warning signs were there: reduced milk production due to the rainy summer, and gradual increase in demand due to a low-carb diet fad. But, they were recognised too late.
The results have been devastating.
We have run out of butter. Supermarkets are cleared out. There is no butter left in Bergen, Oslo, Trondheim, Tromsø and the towns and villages in between.
In a desperate attempt to ease the situation Jens Stoltenberg lifted butter import tariffs on Denmark, and tried to convince the Danes to sell us some of theirs to relive the shortage.
It hasn’t worked.
A butter black market has quickly sprung up. People are flying to the UK, returning with (and smuggling) a few dozen kgs back and selling it online.
It is possible to buy a 1/2 kg block for around 300NOK. Now even for Norway, that’s just ridiculous.
This is a serious state of affairs indeed.
We, ourselves, have just 250g left. It’s enough to make a batch of Christmas cookies, but not enough for a gingerbread house.
Yesterday in language class, I discussed the gravity of the situation with one of my classmates, a professor of finance, and lecturer at the university. I learned he had two blocks of butter stashed in his fridge. I tried to convince him to trade it in exchange for some home-brew.
He wasn’t keen.
A wise man.
So, I asked him whether this crisis would be the trigger event for a complete global financial collapse.
December and Christmas have very strong cultural roots here, and butter plays a pivotal role. If Norwegians don’t have butter, they can’t make gingerbread houses, can’t bake Christmas cookies, and can’t fill their houses with delicious wafty smells of buttery meat. Christmas will be a disappointment. In turn this will influence spending and could spell a mini recession. And from there, could it be an even more sinister downward spiral?
The finance professor looked at me.
He solemnly shook his head and said “I don’t know, it’s just too early to tell”.