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Farmer protest ‘Cheese first’ policy forces Switzerland to import extra 1,000 tons of butter


Not enough butter is being produced domestically in Switzerland.

(Keystone / Gaetan Bally)

Switzerland has increased the quota for low-tariff butter imports by 1,000 metric tons despite protests from local farmers that it will damage their business. The ministry for agriculture says the measure is needed to avoid Swiss households running out of butter this year.

Frozen butter reserves shrank to 1,500 tons, and while they recovered to 2,300 tons this month, they are still well short of the 4,000-5,000 needed to supply the nation for the rest of the year. The umbrella group for the dairy industry therefore asked the Swiss authorities to ease tariffs on imported butter to bring stocks up to comfort level.

That request was granted on Tuesday by the Federal Office for Agriculture despite the Swiss Farmer’s Union complaining that the move would  short change its members. Swiss farmers say they are still subject to tariffs on milk fat products that they export.

But the agriculture ministry responded that a “bottleneck in butter supplies, especially at the end of the year, must be avoided”. It has allowed imports equivalent to 2.3% of all butter sold in Switzerland each year.

The shortage has been put down to more milk fats being used to produce cheese rather than butter.

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