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Couchepin warns farmers of need to reform

Pascal Couchepin says reforms are needed to keep Swiss farmers competitive


The economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, has called for wide ranging reforms, during an address at the country's largest agricultural fair, the "Olma". He said Swiss farming needs to modernise it if is to survive.

Couchepin's opening address to farmers at the Olma in St Gallen focused on the need for structural reforms, which he said were necessary to reduce the agriculture deficit with the European Union and bring down costs.

He added that it would be a mistake to think that agricultural reforms implemented so far were enough.

Looking ahead, Couchepin said the implementation of a series of bilateral accords with the EU - due to come into force next year - would bring new opportunities and challenges for Swiss agriculture and that farmers needed to take advantage of these.

He said Switzerland's main farming strengths were in the production of milk and organic products, as well as fruit and vegetables.

During his address, Couchepin announced the creation of three working groups, which would be charged with devising strategies to improve competitiveness.

He added that parliament would start discussing reforms in 2004, when the government's agricultural policy comes up for its next review.

The Olma, which started on Thursday, runs until October 22. The guest of honour this year is canton Zurich, the country's fourth largest farming region.

A special exhibition will try to show how Zurich has managed to strike a balance between nature protection, preservation of the rural landscape and industrial development.

Around 400,000 visitors are expected to attend.

swissinfo with agencies

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