Norway is currently in the grip of a severe butter shortage caused by unusually low autumn milk production and increased consumption.
This led the country’s leading butter producer TINE to call (successfully) for customs duties to be temporarily eased by the government in late November, to allow for higher levels of foreign imports to ease the situation.
However, this didn’t stop the two enterprising Swedish citizens from trying to profit from their neighbours' supply shortage last weekend, albeit to no avail.
A Norwegian police spokesman for the Nord-Trøndelag district in the country’s far north told DairyReporter.com that two men were arrested trying to smuggle 250kg of butter over the border from Sweden.
Extortionate price asked
The men from Umea, aged 30 and 40, were stopped in their van by a Norwegian patrol in the Namsos municipality after police were notified by members of the public that butter was being offered for sale at the extortionate price of 250 SEK (€27) per 500g pack.
The spokesman said: “The men were not arrested for a long time. They were stopped in their van and were fined for smuggling the butter across the border from Sweden to Norway.”
“They had so much butter that it was illegal to transport it across the border without declaring it to the customs.
“The reason they were stopped was because it was so expensive that people around them thought: ‘this must be illegal’. But the only illegal thing was the transport across the border without declaring it to customs.”
Butter safety issue
Since the van was not refrigerated, the police spokesman admitted that safety of the butter (which has now been destroyed) could have been an issue: “That’s also a problem, according to the Norwegian authorities for the preparation and sale of foods,” he said.
But despite the butter shortage, he added that the Nord-Trøndelag police were not paying particular attention to butter smuggling.
“No we are not specially looking out for butter – but the Norwegian butter shortage is the reason why these Swedish people saw the opportunity to try and do some business,” he said.
Quizzed as to whether the butter supply shortage had eased in Norway since the introduction of tariff relief by the Norwegian Agricultural Authority (SLF) in late November – tariffs for December were cut from 25.19kr (Norwegian krone) per kg to 4kr – a TINE spokesman told DairyReporter.com:
“TINE [has] imported 750 tonnes of consumer butter and 1,000 tonnes for industrial use. Parts of the deliveries have already come to Norway, while some is expected in January.
He added: “Other dairy companies and some food retailers have also imported butter to the consumer. The overall effect of the other measures TINE has inserted relieve the situation. We expect that the situation will be completely normalised by the end of January.”
*Yesterday we published the tariff figures the wrong way round: we apologise for the error.