Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Swedish strawberries prove prices matter

Just like Norway's government was busy this winter blocking foreign butter, Sweden's agricultural officials are having a tough time keeping foreign strawberries out of the hands of consumers.

While the black market butter was a response to a butter famine, the strawberries are being brought in because they're cheaper and sellers are dishonestly labeling them as being grown in Sweden.

"We have taken a few samples and they’re on the way to Germany for analysis," Waldemar Ibron, an official at the Swedish Board of Agriculture told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper. Ibron is referring to an ongoing epidemic in Sweden where foreign strawberries are being repackaged and sold at markets for cheap--underselling local farmers and growers
It seems like only two days ago I was hearing how strawberries robust enough for transport taste like Styrofoam and expensive locally-grown strawberries taste much better. It's true there is a taste difference, but there are also significant price and availability differences between the two.

We see countless examples of expensive hand-made crafts that have acceptable, mass-produced versions that are much cheaper, including furniture, soaps, clothing and desserts. It is an act of snobbery to turn up one's nose at commoner furniture, so why should food be any different?

What's interesting here is that despite the quality differences between the strawberries, the Swedish customers love the cheaper strawberries and often prefer them. If the berries are as different as the locavores insist, it's hard to argue the Swedes don't know what they're buying. The Swedish public clearly has a different set of priorities than the protectionists and locavores.

Update: United Kingdom strawberry fans are fortunate that we have a global food system, as this year's strawberry harvest has been ravaged by mold.

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