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Last Swiss tobacco factory facing closure


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The clock is ticking for Switzerland’s only remaining factory processing local tobacco. How long can it fend off market pressures? (SRF/swissinfo.ch

Since it was opened in 1938, Fermenta in Payerne, canton Vaud, has been preparing tobacco for international cigarette producers. But a number of factors have led to its decline: fewer people smoke, fewer farmers are growing tobacco, and the strong franc has made production costs double those of rival factories in France, Italy, Germany and Poland.

Burley tobacco, valued locally at CHF17 ($17.60) per kilogram, is being sold to multinational cigarette manufacturers for just CHF4 per kg. As there is a big difference between the production costs and sale price, the branch is supported by a tax on cigarettes: the co-operative society for the purchase of Swiss home-grown tobacco collects CHF0.13 from every cigarette purchased in Switzerland.

The tobacco leaves are harvested mostly in the area around Payerne, but the number of growers is diminishing. At its peak after the Second World War, the Swiss tobacco-growing industry counted more than 6,000 growers for a total production area of 1,450 hectares. Today there are just 198 growers over a total area of 468 hectares.