The Norges Bondelag and the Norwegian government exemplified the power of unity in helping farmers handle the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Even today, and true to its purpose as a farmers’ union, Norges Bondelag (Norwegian Agrarian Association) continues to work with the government in addressing the challenges that farmers faced during and after border closures and national lockdown.
When Lack of Workers Affected Farm Production
When the Norwegian government closed Norway’s borders in mid-March, foreigners, including seasonal farm workers were not allowed to enter the country. Farm productivity, particularly among fruit and vegetable growers, suffered from lack of workers. At the same time, as schools also closed, farmers had their hands full taking care of their children and in coping with the lack of farm hands to maintain production.
To address the issue, the Norges Bondelag and the Norwegian government found a solution by getting laid-off workers to temporarily work in farms. As an incentive, the Norwegian government offered laid-off workers volunteering for agricultural work; the right to keep 50% of their unemployment benefits even while employed as farm workers.
In June, 2020, although Norwegian borders remained closed, the government allowed foreign workers to enter, for as long as they tested negative of the coronavirus disease. Even up to the present, testing is being done prior to entry, while those who presented negative test results still have to stay quarantined for 10 days, whilst needing to undergo another test on the 5th day of quarantine.
Norwegian employers assume the responsibility of organizing and financing the costs of testing and quarantine measures and in working out arrangements for related cost recovery. Only those who completed the 2 tests and the 10-day quarantine period can move forward with their seasonal employment contracts. In addition, quarantine measures remained strict because workers have to stay confined to their respective workplace during breaks and day offs.
As Restaurants Closed and Tourism Out, Farmers Struggled with Little Income
While the government strictly imposed mitigation measures to prevent the spread of the infectious disease, restaurants to whom farmers supplied their agricultural products and services went into lockdown — leaving farmers with meager income from their farm produce. Agri-businesses were constrained to sell meat and dairy products at low prices in observance of the country’s price control and market regulation policies.
While farmers took the risk of keeping up agricultural production with not enough workforce, the Norges Bondelag helped farmers who lost their restaurant direct sales, receive crisis relief funds. As part of the Norwegian government’s crisis package for the small business sector, economic stimulus packages were made available to business owners and farmers as financial support in mitigating the long-term effects of the pandemic.
Dealing with the Continuing Threats of COVID-19
As farmers, farm workers, veterinarians and farm product handlers and purchasers continue to face the threats posed by COVID-19, the Norges Bondelag and health authorities worked together in formulating health and safety guidelines. Health and safety protocols must be adopted and observed in farms and in agricultural manufacturing and processing plants. .
Aside from the hand-washing, fever-checking, face-mask wearing and other routine mitigation measures, farmers and food purchasers were given behavior guidelines when visiting farms and plants. Moreover, every farm has to have an emergency plan, particularly in dealing with cases where the farmer himself becomes infected Such plans include actions to take in alerting visitors and in obtaining a replacement as economic support through a farmworker replacement program.
In the meantime, Norway’s financing institutions stood ready to grant consumer loans, including payday loans called “lan-uten-kredittsjekk” (loans without credit checking) to Norwegians seeking to obtain emergency funds. However, as some unscrupulous lenders took advantage of those who are not familiar with how payday loans worked, providing loan applicants with information became necessary.
We at Långuiden.no (långuiden.no/lan-uten-kredittsjekk/) can help loan applicants find the best Norwegian bank or financial institution that offers the most reasonable interest rate; as well as the most considerate repayment scheme. .