Swiss industry endured horror April during pandemic peak

Watches were among the poorest performing Swiss exports in April. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Swiss watch exports slumped by over 80% last month, recording sales of just CHF329 million ($339 million) – compared with CHF1.76 billion in April 2019. Both exports and imports in all industries endured a predictably dire performance as Covid-19 resulted in national lockdowns.

This content was published on May 26, 2020 - 15:49

Figures from the Federal Customs AdministrationExternal link on Tuesday revealed the gravity of the situation for Swiss manufacturers. Exports in April fell 11.7% (seasonally adjusted figures) with imports falling by more than a fifth.

Exports of jewellery and watches were worst hit, but no sector was left unscathed. The sale of precision tools were down 18% on March and even pharmaceutical and chemical exports took a hit of nearly 5%.

The worst-hit markets were the United States (30% reduction in exports) and Europe (-13%). Monthly export figures to France were the worst for 22 years while the sale of goods to Italy has not been so bad since 2001.

Swissmem, the umbrella group for the mechanical and electrical engineering sector, warned that the perilous situation threatened the existence of nearly three-quarters of its 1,100 member firms. It called for economies to re-open from their pandemic-enforced shutdowns, for governments to reduce tariffs and for Switzerland to boost funds that stimulate research and innovation.

Swissmem said it expected the full consequences of the pandemic to be felt among manufacturing firms towards the end of this year. Economists are predicting an economic downturn that could last for years.

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