With the ongoing war in Ukraine as a backdrop along with recent experiences of pandemics and extreme weather, ministers from all the Nordic countries came together in Tromsø in the north of Norway to discuss food supply and emergency preparedness.
“What was once science fiction is now our day-to-day life. We’re not just in a crisis situation, this is a new reality and we need to look at food production with new eyes. My most important message is that we cannot let the acute crisis be a reason to delay measures to solve the climate crisis,” said Svandís Svavarsdóttir, Iceland’s Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture.
Dependence on foreign labour and imports
The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the vulnerability of Nordic food systems and the fact that we are highly dependent on foreign labour and imported food and feed.
The extremely dry summer of 2018 was a wake-up call to the challenges that climate change poses for agriculture.
Consequently, it’s a matter of crisis after crisis. At their meeting in Tromsø, Norway on 22 June, the ministers discussed how they can work together between the countries to improve the resilience of food production in times of crisis.
“We can produce our own proteins and fertilisers”
“We can see just how dependent the Nordic countries are on imported fertilisers and concentrated feed for livestock. I want the Nordic countries to lead the way when it comes to joint solutions that are also environmentally friendly. We’re talking about the development of alternative proteins and fertilisers that can replace what we import,” said Sandra Borch, Norway’s Minister of Agriculture and Food and host of the meeting.
End dependence on oil and gas
Anna-Caren Sätherberg, Sweden’s Minister for Rural Affairs, pointed out that robust food production cannot be based on a dependence on fossil fuels.
“The situation shows that it’s more important than ever before to make changes, not least to break our dependence on Russian oil and gas. There’s still great potential for sustainable food systems through Nordic co-operation. In the long run, this will also benefit our food supply,” said Sätherberg.
The Faroese minister made a similar point: “The fishing industry will only be robust against crises if we fish sustainably, both nationally and in the Nordic Region as a whole.”
Feasibility study on stronger bioeconomy
Shortly after the Russian attack on Ukraine, the Nordic Council of Ministers commissioned a feasibility study on how the bioeconomy - i.e. forestry, agriculture, and marine industries - can be made more robust in a broad sense.
A working group led by Nordic Agri Research (NKJ) and Nordic Forest Research (SNS) will identify areas that should be strengthened by way of joint Nordic initiatives.
“We need a political mandate”
“We need a clear political mandate in order to facilitate effective Nordic co-operation that supports food supply and emergency preparedness. It’s then that we can mobilise experts and organisations in relevant sectors, point the way forwards, and clarify who will take responsibility,” said Per Hansson, Secretary General of Nordic Agri Research.