Oats? Yes please!
Lower blood sugar, a better cholesterol balance, good digestion. Does that mean paying through the nose for special health foods or patent medicines? Oh no. Just eat pure Finnish oats.Why Finnish oats, specifically? What’s so special about them? Let’s ask an expert. Seppo Koivula is a special advisor at the Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry who spends his working time planning strategies for this little northern country’s grain chain. He takes a deep breath before listing all the excellent qualities of oats grown up in the north.
“First of all, the varieties grown are ideal for our climate, soil and farming culture. The hectolitre weight of Finnish oats is extremely high – 58 kilos at the minimum in grain going for export. Farther south, it’s only around 52 kilos,” says Koivula.
He goes on: “Mature Finnish oats are a lovely pale colour, with low besatz. That means it is basically clean, and it is also well-dried. The authorities here monitor grain production, and for instance keep a close eye on any occurrence of mildew toxins.”
Koivula explains that Finland still has a good farming culture. “It slipped a bit recently because of pricing – in other words, really low prices. But things have changed this year, because the price of oats has risen appreciably, in both conventional and organic farming.”
Not enough organic grain produced
Organic farming has been struggling in Finland, despite all the strategies and sales promotion work. “Sales haven’t risen as much as the ambitious plans projected. Demand and supply are often out of balance. At the moment, there’s great demand for organic products in Europe, and we cannot meet it,” says Seppo Koivula.
About 250 million tonnes of grain is produced annually in the EU, with demand for organic grain accounting for roughly ten million. Finland’s entire grain output is only around four million tonnes.
At the moment, most of the oats produced in Finland are processed elsewhere in Europe, mainly in the UK. From there, the products are distributed to Europe and the USA. Finland has top food business know-how and research, but commercialization and export marketing are getting nowhere, despite all the strategies.
“Maybe it’s just general ineffectiveness,” ponders Koivula. “The government and the grain industry cooperation group are trying to get things to change, but strategy alone is not enough here. I believe the Finnish food industry will eventually get its act together and stop being so passive.”
BY KATI LEPPÄLAHTI
PHOTOS BY SEPPO SAMULI