Working Group in Response to Young Farmers’ Distress Call

Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir

The Association of Young Farmers has demanded immediate government action to prevent a crisis within the field. In response, Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir has established a working group to propose possible solutions.

Looming bankruptcies and abandoned farms

Yesterday, the Association of Young Farmers (i.e. Samtök ungra bænda) convened a well-attended protest meeting in Kópavogur to address the critical situation within Icelandic agriculture.

Steinþór Logi Arnarsson, Chairman of the Association, called on the government to take immediate action to avert looming bankruptcies and a decline in the farming community.

Read More: Labour of Love (a magazine profile of a young farmer in North Iceland)

Minister responds with working group

In an interview with RÚV, the Minister acknowledged the difficult nature of the situation: “This is a profound problem, to some extent, and we see that current conditions may not be optimal,” Svandís remarked, referring, among other things, to livestock agreements. She also noted that the most pressing problems facing young farmers were high interest rates and inflation.

Svandís announced that she had appointed a working group of three ministry directors to analyse the problem and deliver recommendations in the coming weeks. She also stated that there was a consensus on the issue within the government. “There are incredible opportunities within Icelandic agriculture,” she observed. “We have a lot of water, we have a lot of land, and we have a lot of well-educated and industrious people. I want to participate in instilling courage and optimism in young farmers.”

First Cocoa Bean Grown in Iceland

cacao plant iceland

The first cocoa beans ever grown in Iceland were recently harvested at the Gardening School of Reykir, making the dream of homegrown Icelandic chocolate one step closer.

Guðríður Helgadóttir, a horticulturist at the Gardening School in Reykir, stated to RÚV that cocoa plants have been cultivated for some 11 years in the banana greenhouse in Reykir, with the hope that one day a cocoa bean would grow on them. Now it seems that the years of work have paid off.

“These plants have been bred for for nearly a decade with the dream of creating Icelandic chocolate. Now, that dream is well within reach,” stated Guðríður. “This is the first cocoa bean to grow in Iceland, as far as we know. The cocoa fruit that we recently produced came from a flower that was fertilized last summer and remained green while it grew and developed into a cocoa pod. So now, it has suddenly turned this beautiful shade of yellow, and that’s when it bloomed, and I honestly can’t believe how we missed it!”

According to Guðríður, the Gardening School at Reykir received two cocoa pods in 2012. Some 80 plants sprouted from the seeds, but of these, only some three survived. But now, after a decade of care, the efforts are finally bearing fruit.

The conditions in the banana greenhouse in Reykir are favourable for cocoa plants, but there are still differences compared to the cocoa plant’s native habitat, making the process of producing usable cocoa rather difficult and complicated.

“In the plant’s native habitat, there are specific flies that pollinate the pods,” Guðríður stated to RÚV. “Of course, we don’t have those flies here, so we were considering whether we should manually pollinate by dabbing with a watercolor brush and mimicking bees by transferring pollen between the flowers. So, it was a bit surprising for us to see pods appearing without any human intervention in the greenhouse!”

High Demand for Chicks

iceland chickens

The demand for chicks is especially high at the moment, reports Vísir.

The high demand has led to some business opportunities, with one chicken farmer in South Iceland filling his incubators with eggs and distributing the chicks across Iceland.

Ragnar Sigurjónsson, a farmer in the Flóahreppur district, raises so-called “Papar” chickens, which he says are descended from the semi-historical Irish monks who may have settled Iceland’s outlying islands before Norse settlement.

These chickens, he stated to Vísir, are also very productive at laying eggs, laying up to 170 to 180 a year.

Ragnar has incubators that are constantly full of eggs to meet the high demand for newly hatched chicks.

“There is just so much demand,” he stated to Vísir. “I’ve had two machines running at once. People are always asking for chicks. Right now, I have a hatchery where about half of them are going to a preschool in Kópavogur.”

Some Icelandic preschools keep hens as a way to reduce food waste. The hens are fed cafeteria leftovers and provide eggs for the children and families who volunteer to take care of them.

According to Ragnar, the unusually high demand for chickens can be attributed to a growing interest in raising chickens in backyards. “They are nice animals to have around,” Ragnar stated. “People want to have three, four or five chickens in their garden and get fresh eggs.”

Dairy Price Hikes Spark Discussion on Industry Structure

The price of dairy products has risen 16% over the past year, well above inflation rates. At the same time, Auðhumla, the parent company of MS Iceland Dairies, which buys almost 100% of all milk produced in Iceland, reported record profits last year and an increase of ISK 4 billion [$29 million, €26.5 million] in operational profits between years. The CEO of MS Iceland Dairies told RÚV production costs have also risen and there is little real profit in the industry.

In Focus: Iceland’s Dairy Industry

Dairy consumption in Iceland is 60% higher than the European average, according to figures from MS Iceland Dairies. With inflation and rising food prices across the board, the increase in the cost of dairy products is felt strongly by local consumers.

The CEO of MS Iceland Dairies, Pálmi Vilhjálmsson, says that the company’s operational surplus is less than 1% of the company’s gross income. He stated that profits were small in the industry and that equipment costs were high relative to the production of other food products, and that rising prices of grain, fertiliser, electricity, and oil affected dairy prices.

Rafn Bergsson of the Icelandic Farmers Association says cow farmers have absorbed many of these rising costs and that further price hikes would be needed to improve their income and working conditions. Dairy prices are set by a government committee, and Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries Svandís Svavarsdóttir says there is reason to review that system, which may be out of date. “If neither consumers nor farmers benefit from the arrangement, where does the profit lie?” Svandís stated. She called on intermediaries to take responsibility for the situation instead of taking advantage of monopolies to raise prices for consumers.

Scrapie Diagnosed in Northwest Iceland

Sheep in Iceland

The degenerative and fatal disease scrapie has been diagnosed in sheep at Bergsstaðir farm in Northwest Iceland, in the Húnavatnssýsla district, RÚV reports. In conformance with Icelandic health regulations, 690 sheep will be slaughtered as quickly as possible to prevent the spread of the disease to other herds. It is the first time the disease has been detected in the region, which will have an impact not just on Bergsstaðir but the entire district. Scrapie is not transmissible to humans.

Scrapie is often described as the ovine equivalent of mad cow disease. If a sheep tests positive for scrapie, the entire herd is culled, the entire farm’s hay must be destroyed, and the entire farm and its implements must be sanitised, either chemically or through fire, as the disease can remain dormant in the environment for decades. As a result, even after this deep-cleaning, farmers are not able to raise sheep on the land for a set time, and the scorched-earth policy may even affect neighbouring herds and farms.

The Miðfjarðarsveit area, where Bergsstaðir farm is located, will now face significant restrictions on sheep farming for the next two decades, including a ban on transporting sheep between locations and transport of other materials.

Researchers have recently discovered two genotypes in the Icelandic breed of sheep that appear to protect sheep from scrapie: ARR and T137. Breeding programs have begun in efforts to eradicate the disease from Iceland.

Read more about the goal of eradicating scrapie from Iceland in the article Good Breeding.

Construction Begins on Country’s Largest Land-Based Aquaculture Facility

Construction has begun on what will become the largest land-based aquaculture facility in Iceland, Vísir reports. The company, Landseldi ehf. (also known in English as Deep Atlantic Salmon Project) bases its operations in Þorlákshöfn, South Iceland and eventually plans to raise 40,000 tons of salmon annually. It is also committed to utilizing all of the farm’s biproducts, or sludge, as a rich, “biologically perfect” fertilizer.

Founded in 2017 by entrepreneurs with experience in aquaculture, the construction industry, geothermal energy, and finance, Landeldi, ehf. says its mission is no less than to “inspire the global transition to fully sustainable food production, use terraforming aquaculture to rear an abundance of salmon on land, fertilize the earth, and regenerate the climate.” While fish farming in sea pens has been criticised for its environmental impact, fish farming in tanks on land eliminates many problems such as the possibility of farmed salmon mixing with wild fish and pollution from waste gathering on the ocean floor. Such operations require more energy, but Landeldi claims that Iceland’s geothermal energy can keep the production carbon-neutral and that 100% of the water used in its facility is renewable and sourced from boreholes in its ownership.

Will bring 170 new jobs to booming Þorlákshöfn

Landeldi’s current expansion is part of a three-phase plan. As the company’s website explains, their “production quantity will double every two years. Starting at 5,000 tons in 2022 it will have grown to at least 20,000 tons by 2027.”

The current phase will will create 170 new jobs in the town, which has itself seen enormous expansion in recent years, not least due to a local boom in land-based fish farming. When Landeldi began its first construction phase in 2021, three other companies were developing land-based aquaculture facilities there as well.

“The main construction will be of some 150 to 160 tanks, which will be carried out for a cost of around ISK 70 billion [$4.85 million; €4.59 million] over the next 10 years,” says Rúnar Þór Þórarinsson, Landeldi’s head of sustainability and development. “It’s a really big project and we’re well underway. We’ve had a hatchery at Öxnalækur [a land-based aquaculture farm not far from Þorlákshöfn], where we completely renovated the facilities, and which we bought as soon as the environmental assessment was done. We’ve got salmon in seawater tanks in Þorlákshöfn—big tanks, 15-20 m [49-65 ft]—and we’re building 25 and 30-meter [82 and 98-ft] tanks this year.”

‘The environmental friendliness of land-based aquaculture is close to our hearts’

Þorlákshöfn is particularly well-situated for land-based aquaculture, says Rúnar Þór. “The conditions are unique there because we’ve got the sea, which Iceland itself filters for us. The strata are quite permeable, alternating between sand and [porous] rock, [which started out as lava] in volcanic eruptions 7,000 – 20,000 years ago. And the sea cleans out parasites, plastic particles, and other things that can harm the fish.” (See a more detailed description of this process on the Landeldi website, in English, here.)

Landeldi is also particularly proud of the unique system it has developed to utilize all of its facilities’ biowaste.

“The environmental friendliness of land-based aquaculture is close to our hearts,” says Rúnar Þór. “This is in our DNA as a company. We intend to collect the fish manure and work with other fish farms to utilize it for the good of the land and support agriculture with fertilizer, biochar, and compost production by any means necessary.”

Cream of the Crop

 Row after row of steep but flat-topped mountains, interspersed with deep fjords. There’s barely enough land in between to make up a coastline, let alone farmland. But on the green patches between the cliffs and the waves, there are still more than a handful of farms dotting the landscape. The Westfjords have always been isolated, but after World War II, when the rest of Iceland experienced a period of sped-up industrialisation, the Westfjords were left behind. Once-thriving communities were slowly drained of life when the young people moved south, and a series of economic setbacks made life difficult for the ones that remained. and new generations still find ways of making it work. 

CREAM OF THE CROP
CREAM OF THE CROP

“I could drive
this road with my eyes closed,
I know it so well.”

6.40 am 

Rauðsdalur 

Mikkjall Agnar Þórsson Davidssen’s alarm goes off. It’s not light yet in the Westfjords but for farmers, this isn’t unusual. Mikki isn’t getting up to milk the cows or feed the sheep but to get his stepdaughter ready for school. At precisely 7.15, the school bus arrives. Rauðsdalur farm is its first stop on the way to bring the preschool and elementary school-aged kids to get their education in Patreksfjörður, the town on the other side of the mountains. 

Íris celebrated her tenth birthday the day before. She’s still waiting on her present, set to arrive any day now by mail from Reykjavík. The post arrives twice a week but the present is yet to turn up. Mikki and Íris are up but her mother Svanhildur is still sleeping, and so is six-month-old Ástey Kolbrún. An online sleep specialist whose aid her parents had requested insists that Ástey be woken up. With bated breath, her parents comply and Ástey rewards them with a smile. They have a whole day to brace themselves for the bedtime-inspired screaming set to happen later. 

Svanhildur and Mikki met in 2019 in Reykjavík. Mikki had lived in Norway for a few years before that, in the same region as the first Norse settler to intentionally sail to Iceland, Raven Flóki. Unlike Flóki, however, he’d never even been to the Westfjords. A couple of years later and he’s building himself a house there. 

The couple bought a prefab house and were hoping to have it ready last summer. Enter Ástey. Svanhildur got pregnant, delaying their plans for a while. They did manage to get the walls up, so all that remains is indoor work. While Mikki is new to the area, Svanhildur is born and bred. She grew up in Rauðsdalur with her parents and two brothers, moving away, like so many of the local youth to go to school, not planning on moving back. “We’d still visit every chance we got,” Mikki notes. “Summer or winter. I could drive this road with my eyes closed, I know it so well.” 

Mikki’s father-in-law drives the milk tanker. He’s been doing it for decades. He’s happy to have some help. Mikki’s taking half the shifts lately. Completely unrelated, his father-in-law is now spending a couple of weeks in the Canary Islands. Alongside the milk truck gig, Svanhildur’s parents run the farm, taking care of their cattle and sheep. They also dabble in tourism, running a guesthouse and campsite. Someone on the next farm over used to take half the shifts on the milk tanker. When he quit, there was an opening for Mikki. “We spent a lot of time here but I needed something more to do than just helping out at the farm.” Mikki and Svanhildur moved west in the spring of 2021, during the lambing season. Despite being raised in a rural area, Mikki says it takes a few years to get to know the ins and outs of dairy farming in the Westfjords. He’s from the south. 

 

Lambavatn

Just before nine, Mikki starts the truck. Twice a week, he collects the milk from the farms along the coast of Breiðafjörður and takes them all the way up to Ísafjörður. He starts at the most remote farm in his area, Lambavatn. To get there, he drives two mountain roads, first over Kleifaheiði heath, under the careful watch of Kleifabúinn, a primitive-looking statue created from excess stone by road workers in the 1940s. In the winter, the Kleifaheiði road can be treacherous, even though it’s cleared once a day to  make sure traffic can flow to and from Patreksfjörður. 

The second road takes you to the remote farming community of Rauðasandur, and it’s more than treacherous. It’s a long and winding gravel road, steep and rough, zigzagging up and down sharp cliffs. In summer, the view over the russet sand that gives the region its name is breathtaking. In winter, with strong winds and ice on the road, it can also take your breath away for all the wrong reasons. The road to Rauðasandur is among the most challenging in the region but there are others that can still be plenty bad when winter sets in. The roads have been slowly improving for the past couple of decades. There are fewer gravel roads. More bridges and shorter routes between towns. But progress is slow. Roads are how kids get to school and how food gets to farms. How products get from factories and tourists get to guesthouses. And how sick people, pregnant people, and people who’ve had accidents get to hospitals. 

It’s still dark when Mikki takes off and there aren’t many other cars on the road. A tiny sliver of light comes from the east. It’s mid-November but it’s still 8°C out and not a snowflake in sight, unusual for this time of year. 

On the road across Dynjandisheiði (try saying that five times fast while trying to keep a truck on an icy road), Mikki regales me with stories of thick layers of ice on the road making it hopeless to brake, and how they could sometimes drive on the edge of the road to keep safe. He also tells me of piles of snow higher than the top of the truck, and how he once had to put chains on the wheels of the truck four times in one day to pass safely over mountain roads. Putting the chains on takes half an hour out in the cold and he has to get them off again as soon as he gets down. He mentions tourists scared shitless who either won’t budge to make room for the truck on the road or give so much way that they almost drive off the road. He’s seen it all. Despite all his adventures crossing the iconic Westfjord mountains, his least favourite stretch of road is driving through the long tunnel connecting the southern and the northern Westfjords. Driving through the calm dark of the tunnels can make you drowsy.

The local milk truck drving across the winding roads of the Westfjords

10.00 am

It takes us less than an hour to get to Rauðasandur but in that time, Mikki’s told me who’s who in every farm along the way and who will greet us when we arrive. As promised, Þorsteinn á Lambavatni meets us in the milkhouse. As Mikki tests the quality of the milk before transferring it to the tank, Þorsteinn explains the watercolour drawing of the milking equipment with directions in English. They have foreign workers at the farm and one of them left the work of art to explain things to the next arrivals. As I admire the picture, Þorsteinn drags me into the cowshed where two further paintings adorn the steel doors keeping the cows away from the winter hay in the barn. Lambavatn may be isolated, at the end of the road, nothing ahead but the north Atlantic, but there’s always people attracted to exactly that. We don’t dawdle too long at Lambavatn. It’s the only dairy farm left in the area so it’s already out of the way. The milk tanker is its lifeline, the biweekly visit from Mikki or his father-in-law a prerequisite for people living there. 

In Barðaströnd, the farms are closer. The next stop is Breiðalækur, where Elín and Kristján are outside working on the greenhouse. Kristján is the third generations of farmers at Breiðalækur, a relatively young farm built in the mid-20th century. Despite only being a few decades old, the farm consists of several buildings and Kristján, a carpenter by trade, has done his part adding to it. There’s the old farmhouse, the new farmhouse sporting a two-year-old annex adding a new apartment for Elín and him. Then there’s the new dairy barn and the old dairy barn, currently in the process of being converted into a greenhouse. “The roof needed fixing,” Elín told me. “So we removed it to make a new one that lets the sun in.” Then there’s the workshop, which Elín has used to tan sheepskin, a garage for the farm equipment and their boat in the winter, and the latest addition under construction – a building to house their new ice-cream-making machinery. 

Their youngest isn’t old enough for school but their six-year-old takes the bus to Patreksfjörður in the morning to go to school. When Elín moved to the farm ten years ago, there was only one school-aged kid left in the region so they closed the local elementary school. Now, there are 14 children below the age of 16 but the school is yet to reopen.

Hagi

Hagi is the next farm over and just like Mikki predicted, there’s no one to greet us in the milkhouse. According to Mikki, “the farmers have decided to stop dairy production when they turn 60 but continue to live on the farm. The milk in the tank is just half of what it once was. They’re gradually downsizing.”

 

Hvammur

Hvammur is next, the largest dairy farm in the area, and Mikki pumps as much milk in his tanker as he did in the first three combined. There’s no one there to greet us. 

 

12.30 pm

Rauðsdalur

We drive up to Rauðsdalur again. Mikki’s family and the in-laws produce dairy, gather it from the surrounding farms, transport it to the dairy in Ísafjörður and drive the finished product back to the area. The dogs greet us with a cheerful bark and Mikki enquires about his daughter’s sleep schedule. All is according to plan. 

There are three dogs in total. The largest one is an Australian sheepdog who moves like an octogenarian after he broke his leg last fall. It takes a while to get used to but we go by the same name: this is Golíat, aka Golli. Pjakkur is a gregarious mutt, constantly seeking attention and willing to place his head in the lap of a perfect stranger in the hope of a scratch behind the ears. The third is more cautious, the namesake of Sveinn Skotti, the son of Iceland’s most famous serial killer, Axlar-Björn. Sveinn took after his father and was finally hanged in the cliffs jutting out into the sea below the farm. This was centuries ago, but I’m still keeping my eye on the dog. 

A quick cup of coffee and we’re off again. This time, we’re taking the milk to Ísafjörður. In Vatnsfjörður, the next town over, we stop and Mikki picks up a Styrofoam box that’s waiting for his arrival. It’s arctic char from the fish farm in Vatnsfjörður to be delivered to the fishmonger in Ísafjörður. Out here, everyone does their part. The tanker carries 5,950 litres of milk on its way to Arna creamery in Bolungarvík. Another milk tanker covers the northern part of the Westfjords bringing in a similar amount twice a week. That’s still not enough and Arna has to buy milk from other parts of the country as well. 

CREAM OF THE CROP

“Roads are how kids get to school and how food gets to farms. How products get from factories and tourists get to guesthouses. And how sick people, pregnant people, and people who’ve had accidents get to hospitals.”

CREAM OF THE CROP

A quick cup of
coffee and we’re
off again.

3.00 pm

Ísafjörður

We arrive in Ísafjörður. There is ongoing roadwork in Dynjandisheiði, the road has already gotten a lot better but there’s more to come. The tunnel by Dýrafjörður has shortened the drive by a lot and on an unusually warm fall day without snow, we don’t run into any issues. “By now, it’s even better to take this road in snow during the winter rather than on a sunny day in the summer. Ever since the tunnel opened the tourist traffic has increased a lot and there are a lot of people on the road that don’t have any experience driving Icelandic country roads.” Mikki’s working so he can’t pick up hitch hikers. There aren’t that many any way. But last year, he took pity on a cyclist on their way up Dynjandisheiði during a storm and drove them to safety. Everyone does their part. 

MS Iceland Dairies has an outpost in Ísafjörður and Mikki stops there for a quality control check on the milk. Everything is as it should be, so we continue out to Bolungarvík where the milk is pumped into Arna’s tankards to become butter, cream, skyr, or cheese. On the way back, we drop the Styrofoam box of char to the fishmonger and Mikki gets a bag of dried fish as a thank you. “I love the stuff, but I can’t eat it at home as the wife has a fish allergy.”

The day is not done yet. The milk tanker has to be thoroughly cleaned in an hour-long process. We get dinner. Mikki is pretty set in his ways but he’s willing to try a kebab in the recently opened kebab shop in an Ísafjörður shopping complex. Before we take off, another truck drives up to the tanker, a delivery from Reykjavík. Pallet after pallet of milk, butter, cheese, yoghurt, skyr and other dairy products is transferred to Mikki’s car for the people back home. He’ll deliver the goods tomorrow. We stop by the grocery. 

On the way back, it’s dark again. The floodlights on the top of the car come in handy. I even see a field mouse crossing the road. I didn’t ask why.

 

Rauðsdalur

It’s half past eight when we get back to Rauðsdalur. We go straight to the barn where Svanhvít is feeding the cows. Ástey is sleeping. 

CREAM OF THE CROP

When and where are the September sheep roundups scheduled?

icelandic sheep réttir
As you may have noticed from driving around Iceland’s countryside, there are many sheep. Historically, sheep were put to pasture in the highlands during the summer and then, as the weather turned for the worse, they were gathered up to be housed in sheds on the farmstead.
Farmers still live by this seasonal pattern in Iceland, letting their sheep roam the countryside and then rounding them up in the middle of September, the end of Iceland’s summer.
These roundups, or réttir, will vary depending on the community, but they all generally happen around the same time. Your best bet is to check the agricultural and farmers’ newspaper, Bændablaðið.
Réttir are a time when an entire community comes together to pitch in. It’s a lot of hard work to collect and wrangle all of the livestock, but many communities will also have a big party afterwards, called a Réttaball. There tends to be plenty of singing, dancing, and drinking at these celebrations, since it’s the last gasp of summer fun before the winter!

Grain Farmer Fights Off Swan Invasion with Falcon-Shaped Kites

A farmer in South Iceland is resorting to a unique method to combat a unique threat to his grain crops. RÚV reports that Björgvín Þór Harðarson, a pig and grain farmer in Laxárdalur, is using falcon-shaped kites to scare away the whooper swans that are consuming and causing significant damage to his crops.

Swans are a major threat to grain crops in Iceland but are generally unfazed by farmers’ attempts to ward them off. Björgvín Þór said the birds are definitely the most difficult pests for him to deal with on the farm—and probably the most prolific. When the swans’ numbers are at their peak, he may find as many as 500 swans occupying his fields.

‘When they arrive, it’s just total destruction’

“When they arrive, it’s just total destruction,” he lamented. “If they arrive in a fully mature field in the fall, they’ll walk all over it and eat it and trample all the straw and everything.”

Björgvín Þór has tried many deterrents—including scarecrows and acoustic warning devices, or pingers—but to no avail.

“I was fighting with this swan that was attacking both my barley in the fall and wheat in the spring,” he explained. “Then I tried one of these kites that I’d been told about, and it worked like a charm.”

Falcon Crop Protection, FB

Kites mimic the flight of birds of prey

The kites that Björgvín Þór uses are shaped like falcons and designed to glide in a pattern that mimics the flight of birds of prey. They are used widely within the wine industry as an environmentally friendly and effective form of “bird abatement.” They can also be used on fish farms and to drive away unwanted gulls and crows in urban areas, among other uses.

But as well as the kites work, Björgvín Þór is still careful to use them only sparingly so the swans will not grow accustomed to them or eventually see through the ruse.

He first used the kites in the spring when his wheat crops were growing but has now taken them down because there’s no need at the moment. He’ll fly them again in the fall, during the harvest, and hopes they’ll be enough to keep his voracious whooper nemeses at bay.

No Small Potatoes: Local Spud Farmers Hopeful For This Year’s Harvest

Potato farmers in Þykkvabær, the spud capital of Iceland, have high hopes for a good harvest this year, RÚV reports. This despite the presence of some potato blight, a fungus that wreaked havoc on last year’s potato crop.

Farmers say that if the weather remains good and sprouting goes well, domestic potato production will be sufficient throughout the year. Potato farmer Markús Ársælsson says this hasn’t been the case in recent years, but he’s still hopeful for this year’s prospects.

“It’s gone just fine and the outlook’s really good, but you never know until the end of the day what the result is going to be,” he remarked. “We might have a frost in August. But as things stand right now, it’s looking good.”

Potato blight is a major concern for farmers in Iceland, Markús agrees. “Yes, it rears its ugly head when weather conditions are like this and we’ve started spraying just to be on the safe side and that’s going pretty well. We’re hoping, just crossing our fingers, that nothing comes up now that makes this summer like the one last year, which was brutal. Because even though we sprayed them, for some reason, nothing helped with anything.”

Farmers take measures to ensure that their potatoes sprout as quickly and prolifically as possible, but growth does sometimes slow, which can make competing with imported potatoes even more difficult, says Markús. Growth delays on the domestic market means that Icelandic grocery stores will import potatoes and then want to sell off all their imported product before looking to buy more potatoes from domestic producers.

“It’s awful, of course,” said Markús. “Customers aren’t offered fresh Icelandic [potatoes], rather it’s ‘we’re going to finish off the old imported ones and then we’ll come back to all of you [Icelandic potato farmers].”

Over the years, domestic potato production has ranged from 7,000 tons all the way up to 12,000 tons in a particularly good year.