Norway starts stockpiling grain again, citing the pandemic, war and climate change

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — The Norwegian government on Tuesday signed a deal to start stockpiling grain, saying the COVID-19 pandemic, a war in Europe and climate change have made it necessary.

The deal to store 30,000 tons of grain in 2024 and 2025 was signed by agriculture and food minister Geir Pollestad, finance minister Trygve Slagsvold Vedum and four private companies. The wheat, which will belong to the Norwegian government, will be stored in already existing facilities by the companies in facilities across the country. Three of the companies will store at least 15,000 tons this year.

Companies “are free to invest in new facilities and decide for themselves where they want to store the emergency grain, but they must make the grain available to the state if needed,” the government said.

Norway’s ministry for agriculture and food said, “the building up of a contingency stock of food grains is about being prepared for the unthinkable.”

“There should be an extra level of security in the event of major disruptions in the international trade systems or failure of national production,” Slagsvold Vedum said. “This is an important part of the government’s work to strengthen national preparedness.”

Norway will sign further stockpiling contracts in the coming years, with the goal of building up the reserve until 2029. The aim is to have some 82,500 tons of grain in storage by the end of the decade “so that we then have enough grain for three months’ consumption by Norway’s population in a crisis situation that may arise,” Pollestad told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

Norway has 5.6 million people.

Last year, the Scandinavian nation said it would spend 63 million kroner ($6 million) per year on stocking up on grain.

Norway had stored grain in the 1950s but closed down its storage sites in 2003 after deciding they were no longer needed.

However, following Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Norway set up a commission to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of its emergency preparedness systems which recommended stockpiling grain products.

The oil-rich country, which has supported Ukraine, also houses the Global Seed Vault in its Svalbard archipelago, some 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) from the North Pole.

Since 2008, gene banks and organizations around the world have deposited nearly 1 million samples of seeds at the vault to back up their own collections in case of human-caused or natural calamities.

The Norwegian government funded the construction cost, while an international nonprofit organization pays for operational costs.

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