From Iceland — MEATGATE: Says Minister Blocking Imports; Not Looking Out For Consumers

MEATGATE: Says Minister Blocking Imports; Not Looking Out For Consumers

Published August 15, 2011

Iceland’s artificially created domestic lamb shortage has been raising tempers and leading to some creative reactions from meat sellers. The editor of the country’s most widely-read newspaper says there is no politician looking out for the interests of consumers.
As reported, so much Icelandic lamb is being exported for foreign markets that meat sellers say they cannot buy domestic lamb for a fair price that would allow them to turn a profit. This, they say, has led to a shortage of domestic lamb, although lamb farmers insist that there is no shortage. However, if meat sellers are having to pay 20% more for lamb meat than before, which has been reported to be the case, they remain unable to make any money from selling it in Iceland.
This has led to the idea of importing foreign lamb meat for the domestic market. To this, the Minister of Agriculture and Fishing Jón Bjarnason has replied with a resounding no.
By letting domestic prices reach unsustainable levels, while not allowing the market to bring in cheaper goods, the minister is endangering the domestic market, says Finnur Árnason, the director of Hagar. Hagar owns a number of retail chains in Iceland, including Bónus, Hagkaup and Ferskar kjötvörur (Fresh Meat Products). He adds that the minister has raised import tariffs to such levels that the country is effectively closed to imports.
Meanwhile, Ólafur Stephensen, the editor of Fréttablaðið, responded to the minister’s defence of Iceland’s sheep farmers by wondering what politician is looking out for consumers.
Some are making their point in more creative ways. Leifur Þórsson, the director of Fresh Meat Products, took out a full-page ad in Fréttablaðið today offering a free iPad for anyone who could bring him 600 tonnes of lamb meat. He emphasises that the focus should not be on the sheep farmers, but rather on meat exporters, and not least of all, the tariffs system in Iceland.
UPDATE: The Consumers’ Association of Iceland has released a statement saying they believe it is imperative that the minister needs to change his policies on what products may be imported, and how high the tariffs can be, for the sake of the country’s consumers. They point out that the parliamentary ombudsman has already stated that the current policy violates the Icelandic constitution.

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