Zero self-sufficency

Slitkalar på Fitn, July 1908. Nordiska Museet

Hard to put a number of food security

Politicians, journalists and pundits have for many years used the number of 50% regarding Sweden’s self-sufficiency in agriculture. A new investigation from the agricultural magazine ATL, however, shows that this number without a doubt is incorrect. A protracted crisis with blockaded imports would result in a catastrophe.

Sweden has made itself vulnerable to shocks and disturbances in international trade by outsourcing production of basic commodities and relying on imports. The precarious global geopolitical situation have brought the question of self-sufficiency back on the political agenda. 

In 2002 the last reserves and warehouses with foodstuffs in case of a national emergency were dismantled. Ten years later we read in a report from LRF that about half of all the food Swedes consume comes from imports. People have therefore assumed that Sweden has a self-sufficiency level of 50%. 

But the relationship between imported and domestically produced food only shows a theoretical potential. Current stocks would only last for a maximum of 3 weeks if there is a true crisis. There are no warehouses with food and chemicals for water purification and our largest packaging plant was shut down last year, according to Therese Frisell at the National Food Agency. 

In other words, Sweden is not self-sufficient at all. According to Frisell our capacity is at zero. This is due to that Sweden is heavily reliant on imports for industrial agriculture, for example oil, fertilizers and protein for animal feed.

Researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences together with the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency claim that farmers can produce food in a time of crisis but that this would require a large scale transition. Farmers would have to rely less on machines, switch from cereals to root crop and from pigs and chickens to uncultivated pasture meat. Farmers can not do it alone, they would need extra manpower. And if the transition fails, Sweden would likely not be able to support its growing population. People would starve.


Out of the ashes into the fire

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