Wednesday, December 21, 2011


No body can be blamed for singing the tune of poverty, hunger and malnutrition when it comes to issues concerning the poor people of Asia, Africa and South America because in these three continents live more than half the population in the world, most of them impoverished with neither adequate resources nor means to buy available foods. But how come one hears alarming news about food shortages and black-marketing in foods in a supposedly rich country like Norway? Of course the big difference is that shortage pertains to butter which is seen as a staple in this industrialized country. Is it because that Norway is not a member of the European Union which would have helped it to ward off the crisis through free trade among this trade zone? With free trade principles governing the relationship in the EU, such shortages would not have occurred at all. Here is a report on this rich man's food that has become scarce especially during the Christmas Festivities"

'Norway, a fully industrialized country and ranked first in the latest Human Development Index, a United Nations' metric that tries to quantify the quality of life across countries, is suffering through a butter shortage, a common food staple and an important input in the food industry. Food shortages wouldn't be out of place in places like Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela and some poor Sub-Saharan nations; it is almost unfathomable that they occur in one of the most developed nations in the world. Norwegian authorities seem puzzled by the shortage and subsequent rise in butter prices. They blame a new low-carb high-fat diet craze for the additional demand. Additionally, heavy rains during the summer affected grazing areas for cows, which resulted in reduced milk production. The shortage is especially alarming during the Christmas season, where many traditional recipes rely on significant amounts of the dairy product. Norwegians have actually resorted to churning their own butter, including a restaurant owner interviewed by The Wall Street Journal: "We have to [churn butter]. We can't get hold of any butter, not any at all. And it's right before Christmas, so we have a lot of customers. It's really strange. It takes a lot of time since we use hand mixers." While the diet combined with unfavorable conditions for dairies has limited the amount of available domestic butter, it doesn't address the biggest issue for the limited quantities of the good: trade regulations. Since Norway is not part of the European Union, imports from other nations are subject to tariffs and other protectionist restrictions Butter tariffs in Norway equaled 25 kroner per kilo(about US$ 4.25), effectively eliminating any incentive to import butter from abroad. While the tariff was lowered to four kroner in December allowing Norway to import more than 750 tons of butter for consumers and 1,000 tons for industry, it will do little to solve the shortage, as it will take time for butter to become available to consumers"'

Hearing about this news one is not sure whether to laugh or cry because butter is a rich source of saturated fat and cholesterol considered harmful for human health if consumed regularly and liberally. Of course the western culture depending very heavily on dairy products like butter, cheese etc will find it difficult to adjust to shortages of these products while eastern culture with a strong survival instinct can adapt to more serious food shortages involving main stream foods like cereals. NDDB of India might consider going to the help of Norway through export of butter through a long term arrangement as this product is relatively less costlier in India compared to global prices. 

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