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Number of Swiss farms dwindles while organic share rises

Farm
Farms in Appenzell, northeastern Switzerland Keystone/Gian Ehrenzeller

Last year there were 47,719 farms in Switzerland, 625 fewer than a year earlier. More and more farms are producing organically: their share now stands at 16.5%, and they cover a fifth of the utilised agricultural area.

In 2023, 7,896 farms were cultivating their land according to organic farming guidelines, 77 more than the previous year (1%), the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) reported on Tuesday. However, there has been a slowdown compared with the years 2019 to 2022.

The cantons of Schaffhausen (23.8%) and Geneva (17.3%) recorded a sharp rise in the number of organic farms.

Organic farmers have 190,000 hectares of farmland at their disposal, 3,700 hectares more than in 2022 (2%). This corresponds to almost a fifth (18.2%) of Switzerland’s utilised agricultural area. Organic farms are slightly larger than the average (24.1 hectares, compared with 21.8 hectares).

+ Organic farming continues to grow in Switzerland

In 2023, Switzerland’s utilised agricultural area covered 1.04 million hectares, mainly made up of natural meadows and pastures (58%) and arable land (38%). The remaining 4% is covered by vineyards and orchards.

In total, there were 47,719 farms in Switzerland in 2023, 625 fewer than in 2022 (-1.3%). The sector employed 148,900 people, a decline of 0.5% over one year. Cantons Basel City (-7.1%), Zurich (-2.1%) and Appenzell Outer Rhodes (-2.1%) recorded the biggest falls in the number of farms. Geneva (0.8%) and Nidwalden (0.3%) were the only cantons to post a slight increase.

More than one in 14 farms (7.3%) were run by a woman last year, a number that has been rising steadily over the years.

+ Female farmers caught between law and tradition

Sunflower boom

The FSO points out that there have been varying trends in crops and livestock numbers. Sunflower cultivation jumped by 21.7% to 6,400 hectares. Almost all of this was used to produce cooking oil. Soya also continued to grow (6.3%, 3,100 hectares).

The FSO also notes that the total area under cereal crops fell by 2.5% to 141,400 hectares. Not all cereals were affected by this decline, as spelt (8,500 hectares, 6.6%), oats (2,900 hectares, 2.0%) and rye (2,100 hectares, 13.8%) were all up.

+ + Why Swiss farmers are rising in protest

Poultry farming continued to grow (0.3%), mainly due to the popularity of Swiss broiler chickens (2.1%). By contrast, the number of dairy cows and pigs fell by 2% and 3.5% respectively.

Translated from French by DeepL/ts

This news story has been written and carefully fact-checked by an external editorial team. At SWI swissinfo.ch we select the most relevant news for an international audience and use automatic translation tools such as DeepL to translate it into English. Providing you with automatically translated news gives us the time to write more in-depth articles.

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