Swiss agriculture – cows, crops, wine and subsidies

Swiss agriculture is heavily protected and subsidised – it is estimated that 75% of Swiss farmers’ income comes from subsidy in one form or another. It is seen as essential to keeping Switzerland as self sufficient as possible (domestic production provides almost 70% of the country’s needs) and it is also protected as a major tourist attraction.

Cattle are the basis for two major food exports – chocolate and cheese. About half the cheese made in Switzerland is exported including the famous Gruyere and Emmental types.

As in other European countries crop production has been heavily industrialized with the intensive use of machinery, fertilizers and highly selected strains. Much of the maize and nitrogen-fixing crops are used for feeding the cattle in winter.

Switzerland produces some world class wines but as only a tiny proportion is exported Swiss wine is little known outside its borders, which is why it is sometimes described as a well-kept secret. Nevertheless as many as 200 million bottles per years are produced, being 30 per year per head of Swiss population. The main grape growing areas are in the Valais and Vaud in the South West and West of the country, but there are also important wine producers in the Schaffhausen region (North East) and Ticio (South East, near to Italian border).

The importance of forestry in Switzerland can be gauged by the fact that trees cover about a third of the country. Swiss forestry is, like agriculture, also heavily protected but its background, which is very different from British or American forestry, needs to be understood. Trees have an essential role in holding the mountain earth in position and preventing avalanches and mudslides. Therefore clear-felling is very rare and trees are managed on a “continuous cover” basis where individual trees are marked for cutting from time to time. The resulting timber may well be used locally or processed at small timber yards dotted throughout the country. Much of the timber grown is used for firewood in houses nearby and on any trip through the countryside you will see stacks of logs drying out and prepared for winter use. One policy which significantly helps some Swiss foresters and forestry contractors is a local sourcing policy, so that a motorway contractor, for example, is required to do a certain proportion of the forestry and landscaping work through local contractors.

There are no comments yet - add yours below

This helps to discourage spam