The president of Switzerland’s main farmers’ group has said that if agricultural operations continue to close down at the current rate, Swiss farmers will no longer be able to fulfil their constitutional mandate.
Markus Ritter of the Swiss Farmers’ Associationexternal link said in an interview with the German-language newspaper Nordwestschweizexternal link on Monday that if Swiss farmers are to continue meeting agricultural demand, 43,000 working farms will still be needed by the year 2030.
At present, Swiss farms number about 52,000, but some 1,000 operations are closing down each year. Such extensive structural change within Swiss agriculture is not sustainable and must be slowed down, Ritter said.
Ritter, who is an organic farmer himself as well as a parliamentarian for the Christian Democratic Party, expressed his dissatisfaction with the Federal Council’s agricultural policies. These would deprive Swiss farmers of their livelihoods, he said.
Switzerland’s executive body plans to sign a free trade agreement and reduce protective import tariffs for agricultural products from abroad by 30% to 50%. The government argues that a free agricultural marketplace would grant Switzerland greater access to a more diverse market, and create more sales opportunities.
But Ritter told the newspaper that Swiss agriculture would collapse without protective tariffs, because production costs would be too high to produce food within the country.
Customs protection is one of the basic conditions necessary to protect the industry in Switzerland, and would cost the government nothing, Ritter argued. He also said that when compared to people’s purchasing power, food is more affordable in Switzerland than anywhere else in Europe.
Agriculture is protected by the Swiss constitution, which includes adequately supplying the population with food and preserving the cultivated landscape among its assigned functions.