Switzerland - Agriculture
Some 444,000 ha (1,097,000 acres), or about 11% of the country's total land area, is under seasonal or permanent crops. Most of the cultivable land is in the Mittelland, or central plateau, and the cantons regularly producing the largest quantities of wheat are Bern, Vaud, Fribourg, Zürich, and Aargau. Soil quality is often poor, but yields have been increasing as a result of modern technology. In 2001, agricluture contributed 2% to GDP.
Agricultural production provides only about 60% of the nation's food needs. Although productivity per worker has been increasing steadily, the proportion of the total labor force engaged in agriculture has fallen from 30% in 1900 to about 4.3% in 1999. Between 1955 and 1985, the number of farm holdings fell from 205,997 to 119,731. Some principal crops, with their production figures for 1999, were as follows: potatoes, 484,000 tons; sugar beets, 1,187,000 tons; wheat, 500,000 tons; barley, 263,000 tons; maize, 183,000 tons; oats, 30,000 tons; and rye, 19,000 tons. In the same year, a total of 130,000 tons of wine were produced, and there were 15,000 hectares (37,000 acres) of vineyards.
Swiss agricultural policy is highly regulated, with fixed prices and quota restrictions maintained on several products. Domestic production is encouraged by the imposition of protective customs and duties on imported goods, and by restrictions on imports. The Federal Council has the authority to fix prices of bread grains, flour, milk, and other foodstuffs. Production costs in Switzerland, as well as international exchange rates favorable to the Swiss franc, make competition with foreign products difficult. This highly protectionist system has led to excess production and mounting costs associated with the management of surpluses. The Uruguay Round and subsequent Swiss implementation of its provisions in July 1995 (along with rising costs in the agricultural sector) has forced the government to begin reforming its agricultural support system.