Lamb and meat trade in the Faroe Islands works “like in the Wild West”

The development of the agricultural sector in the Faroe Islands “is always sacrificed” to protect the fishing industry, to which 90 percent of the products (mainly farmed salmon) are exported.

Ens Ivan í Gerdinum, of the Islands Agency for Agriculture, says the domestic lamb and beef trade now functions “like it does in the Wild West”, with “more than 50 per cent meat being traded on the “black market” – while the nation continues to focus on large Quantities of meat is dependent on unrestricted meat imports.

Mr í Gerdinum, who has been campaigning for the Faroese government to introduce an agricultural policy for several years, says there is “enormous potential” for the islands to become self-sufficient in meat, dairy and some grains “if only we could enforce our action together”.

“We only have one breed of sheep, a Faroese breed of northern European short-tailed sheep, small and hardy, that has evolved over the centuries.

“We don’t allow livestock imports to protect against unwanted diseases, I’m very happy about that, because our breed would have been extinct by now.

“It’s not a very prolific breed, it gives 0.8 lambs a year, the lamb’s carcass weight is 15 kg, the wool is not of good quality.

“But their maternal instincts are superior, and the characteristics of the meat allow it to ferment and dry, which other breeds cannot.

“If you take very good care of your Faroese sheep, they will give you two lambs every year. They seek out the highest mountains and steepest cliffs, so they would fit the bill perfectly if we were to make full use of our natural resources.”


Jens Ivan í Gerdinum from the Islands’ Department of Agriculture. Photo: Claire McCormack

Today there are 400 registered farms in the Faroe Islands, with the government owning 50 per cent of the land, which is leased to ‘tenant tenants’ – who are considered the most commercial operators.

The average flock is 100-120 ewes with a net annual turnover of €10,000 excluding VAT and wages. The average price for autumn lamb is €11/kg.

The islands’ largest sheep station has 700 ewes on 1,200 to 1,500 hectares of rangeland – including much unproductive wasteland and rocks.

“I love farming, but the real money is in fishing, it’s hard to say.

“It’s a bit like the Wild West here when it comes to selling on the domestic market, well over 50 percent of the meat is unregistered.

“If you ask an insurance company how many ewes there are in the Faroe Islands, we’ll answer ‘5,000’ because that’s the insured number – but we have 75,000 to 80,000 ewes and everyone knows it.

“Our approach to food security and self-sufficiency is terrible, you never hear a politician worry about food security, security and self-sufficiency.

“If we doubled the quotas on our dairies, we would be self-sufficient in all dairy products, we could be self-sufficient in our lamb and beef (which comes from the dairy herd) and we need to farm more of our land – but there is no political interest in agriculture, it’s always about supporting fisheries.” Lamb and meat trade in the Faroe Islands works “like in the Wild West”

Fry Electronics Team

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