Cost of living For Members

How the war in Ukraine affects Danish food production and prices

Emma Firth
Emma Firth - [email protected]
How the war in Ukraine affects Danish food production and prices
Several knock-on effects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine are increasing the cost of food production - and store prices - in Denmark. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

Global inflation, soaring energy prices and shattered supply chains following the coronavirus pandemic led to an increase in food costs. Now Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is compounding supply and demand pressure. How is this affecting Danish food production?


According to Statistics Denmark, the price of food products has increased by 7.7 percent during the last year. Increases of over 15 percent were recorded for several products including milk, beef and pasta products.

The reasons for the food price increase are twofold, according to the sector director for food with the Confederation of Danish Industry (Dansk Industri, DI), Leif Nielsen.

Firstly, there is a global food shortage due to droughts and extreme weather in several parts of the world; secondly, the war in Ukraine is causing an energy crisis around Europe.


"Producing food is a very energy-intensive operation. Even at home, the most electricity used is in your kitchen. You've got heating up and cooling down, for the food to be safe.

"That’s why food prices are more crazy than other goods because you have two things affecting it; global food production shortage and the energy crisis," Nielsen told The Local.

What is the energy crisis?

Russia currently provides 40 percent of the EU's gas and 27 percent of its oil. European governments are trying to wean their countries off supplies from Russia, which has pushed up global prices by creating more demand for supplies from elsewhere.

High gas prices also mean high electricity prices because part of the electricity supply is generated by burning natural gas. Companies also use more electricity when gas is in short supply, which pushes prices up.

The agricultural industry is particularly affected because of the rise in raw materials and fertiliser, the energy needed to produce food and packaging and an increase in transportation costs.

Global trade sanctions mean that some cargo containers, ships, and trucks carrying necessary materials have ended up blocked or diverted.  

Russia and Ukraine are also significant exporters of agricultural fertilisers and natural gas is a key ingredient in processing fertilisers.

Nielsen says that Denmark has had the money to pay for fertilisers so far, so it hasn't been affected by this yet, despite the fact the price is four to five times higher than usual.

When can we expect to see food prices go back down?

"We will have to see what happens this winter," Nielsen told The Local.

"If you'd have asked me half a year ago, I would have said that every time we have a food crisis, which can happen every 10-15 years, it takes about two years to recover. But this time, we have the war in Ukraine and the fact Ukraine and Russia are huge producers of fertilisers. So the world will be affected next year as well.

"Unfortunately I haven’t seen any positive affects yet, so I’m not that optimistic it will take two years to recover. It's probably longer, " Nielsen said. 

Will there be a food shortage in Denmark?

"We haven't got empty shelves - for now. But we are concerned," Nielsen told The Local.

"If there's any breakdown in the energy supply system, you'll see it in food stores very quickly. 

"When I look at the energy prices all around Europe, I'm a little worried we could have a problem with the gas supply when it comes to winter. If we have a very cold winter, it could be a problem. We don’t like to depend on nature, we like to be in control so there is lot of nervousness. I think we will survive this winter but it will be tough."

READ ALSO: Why this week could be crucial for Danish heating this winter


What happens if Russia shuts down gas exports to Europe?

Russia’s main gas pipeline to Germany was completely shut down on Tuesday for supposed maintenance.

The Russian state-owned energy giant, Gazprom, said the restrictions on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline would last for the next three days. But there are concerns that the supply may not resume once repairs are finished. 

The pipeline was shut down for 10 days in July - again for repairs, according to Russia - and has recently been operating at just 20 percent capacity because of what Russia describes as faulty equipment. Russia denies accusations it is using energy supplies as a weapon of war against Western countries.

The Danish Energy Agency declared an “Early Warning” on June 20th when the pipeline was operating at 60 percent capacity. This is the first level of Denmark's emergency response plan to secure gas in the event of a serious supply crisis.

If the pipeline doesn't reopen, there are some levers Denmark can pull – like activating emergency measures and reducing gas supplies to large businesses. But it may find itself competing with other countries for scarce supplies, sending prices even higher.

Denmark does continue to use a growing percentage of renewable energy, however. 50 per cent of electricity in Denmark is supplied by wind and solar power. With the country's ambitious plans like the world's first  ‘Energy Island’ in the North Sea, the role of renewables will substantially increase. 


What can people do to help the situation?

"Don’t produce food waste so don’t buy more than you can eat and try to eat everything. If people just buy what they’re going to eat, then we can reduce the demand for food and prices go down a bit", Nielsen told The Local.

"We are already seeing there isn't as much waste in the supermarkets as before, when prices were lower. The cheaper end-of-shelf-life products are also being sold.

"Energy-wise, if you have spare fridge or freezer don’t use them. Be careful how to heat up the home and wear more clothes to keep warm," Nielsen added.

The Danish government is paying out relief to around 400,000 households affected by high heating bills, but individuals are also adapting daily habits to reduce bills.

This includes not making meals that require long oven time; using slower but more efficient washing programmes on dishwashers and washing machines, and running them at night; and avoiding the tumble dryer.

Energy prices as high as 7.7 kroner per kilowatt hour can fall to as much as 3 kroner per kilowatt hour at night. This can be checked using tracking apps, which monitor the kWh price by the hour. Popular apps to monitor electricity prices include ‘Min strøm’, ‘Elpriser’ and ‘Andel Energi'.

READ ALSO: How people in Denmark are changing their energy use to keep bills down


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also