Sheep Farmers Protest Private Company's Land Acquisition Skip to content

Sheep Farmers Protest Private Company’s Land Acquisition

By Gréta Sigríður Einarsdóttir

Núpsdalstunga farm in Northwest Iceland
Photo: Fasteignamiðstöðin.

Sheep farmers in Vestur-Húnavatnssýsla have challenged the Minister of Agriculture to reject private company Flaumur’s acquisition of the Núpsdalstunga estate in Miðfjörður fjord in Northwest Iceland. The Húnaþing Municipal Council has stated that estates should remain residential.

The Ministry of Industry and Innovation requested the Municipal Council’s review of the Flaumur acquisition. According to the ministry, the company owns close to 6,000 hectares of land before the acquisition and according to law, a municipal council’s opinion should be sought if a buyer’s property crosses a certain amount of estates and hectares.

The Húnaþing Vestra Municipal council does not consider it desirable that many estates gather in the hands of few and reiterates its will that estates be sold to prospective residents. The municipal council’s full statement was recorded in their meeting minutes: “it’s important to ensure proper usage of farmland, as such usage across the municipality is the heart of the community. The municipal Council wants to emphasise that owning land does not only come with the right to use its benefits but also responsibilities to the land and the whole community. It is the municipal council’s express request that all land in the municipality is used with the goal of supporting diverse industry, strengthening regional development and rural residency. That makes it important to ensure that as many estates as possible have active residents,” the statement reads. The council also criticised the ministry’s handling of the review request, stating that the council had little time to react to the request and that none of the necessary information had accompanied the request.

The Sheepfarmers Association of Vestur-Húnavatnssýsla posted a statement on social media challenging the minister to reject the acquisition. “Of course we, like all other rural residents, want widespread farm residency, because a certain amount of people is needed to keep up a community, Association Director Ólafur Benediktsson told RÚV. “People have been calling out for the past years regarding these estate collections. That people and companies aren’t collecting estates across the country.” According to the Association’s Facebook post, a young family had made a “realistic”, fully funded offer, intending to live on the estate and farm the land, while it was unlikely that Flaumur, already owning several thousand hectares of land across Iceland were purchasing the estate for full-time residency. The Association also stated that Flaumur’s purchase should be rejected to set a precedent that land purchasers should adhere to laws requiring large-scale land buyers to provide clarification on how they intend to use the land.

The owners of the Núpsdalstunga estate don’t live on the farm anymore and the land is currently not being traditionally farmed. Ólafur claims it is important the land is bought by people who want to live there. The people of Vestur-Húnavatnssýsla have been burned before by outside companies acquiring land in the area. “In our experience, we’re afraid that nobody is going to live there. We’re worried about that, yes. And you have to wonder, in this context, what has one person to do with five or ten thousand hectares of land, spread across Iceland. I don’t understand that.”

Laws on land purchase in Iceland are laxer than in many other countries, something that has been discussed in parliament more than once, and something the government has been intending to amend for years. Notably, British tycoon Jim Ratcliffe has purchased large swathes of land in Iceland, thereby acquiring the rights to some of the country’s most popular salmon fishing rivers and water sources. The Núpsdalstunga estate also comes with fishing rights.

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