Home » Country info » Switzerland » Country report

Country report - Switzerland

by Helga Willer, Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL)

This article was originally written for the publication "Organic in Europe", published by the IFOAM EU Group in collaboration with the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL, Switzerland, and the Mediterranean Institute for Agronomic Research CIHEAM-IAM, Bari, Italy.  

Key indicators 2012

  • Organic agricultural area: 125,961 hectares
  • Operators:
    • Organic producers: 6,173
    • Organic processors: no data
    • Organic importers: no data
    • Organic exporters: no data
  • Retail sales: EUR 1,520.33 million

Area and operator data: FiBL; market data: Bio Suisse

History of organic farming

  • 1940s: Hand and Maria Müller promote organic agriculture among farmers in the country
  • 1973: The Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) is founded.
  • 1977: The first Scientific Conference of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) is held in Sissach near Basel, organised by FiBL.
  • 1980: Bio Suisse, the organic sector organisation, is founded
  • 1993: The retailer Coop launches its organic Naturaplan prduct line, followed by Migros in 1995
  • 2000: The 13th IFOAM conference takes place in Basel. 

Key sector institutions

Production base: land use and key crops

Of the total area of 125,961 hectares

  • 78.0% consists of permanent grassland and grazing areas,
  • 17.4% arable land and
  • 1% permanent crops.

The key arable crops are

  • green fodder from arable land (102,000 hectares),
  • cereals (6,700 hectares) and
  • vegetables (1,600 hectares).

The key permanent crops are

  • fruit (500 hectares),
  • grapes (37 hectares) and
  • permanent medicinal and aromatic plants (118 hectares).

Market

The Swiss organic market has grown steadily in recent years and is now well developed, with the highest per capita consumption of organic products in the world. At 6.3 %, the market share is also larger than in most other countries.

  • Top-selling products: Eggs (EUR 40.08 million, 20.5 % if all eggs sold), fresh bread (EUR 131.67 million, 18.8 %), direct marketing and potatoes (EUR 136.38 million, 12.9 %)
  • Market channels include general retailers (mainly Coop and Migros - 77.9 %), specialised retailers (12.5 %), direct marketing (5.5 %) and other channels (4 %).
  • Exports and imports: Data on exports and imports are not publically available. It may be assumed, however, that Switzerland imports a large proportion of the organic products that are consumed in the country. In terms of exports, dairy products play a role.

Standards, legislation, organic logo

The Swiss Organic Law applies (Verordnung über die biologische Landwirtschaft und die Kennzeichnung biologisch produzierter Erzeugnisse und Lebensmittel). More information available at: http://www.admin.ch/opc/de/classified-compilation/19970385/201301010000/910.18.pdf. There is no national logo for organic products, but the logo of the umbrella organisation Bio Suisse is widely used.

Policy support

Direct payments for organic farming are granted under a special scheme (Direktzahlungsverordnung) which has been in operation since the beginning of the 1990s. The agricultural policy for 2014 to 2017 is currently still under preparation.

  • National action plan: There is no action plan for organic food and farming in Switzerland.
  • Other policy support: Funding for FiBL, the Research Institute of organic Agriculture, as well as organic farming research and support for the organic advisory services of the cantons.

Research & advice

The main institutions carrying out relevant research are the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), the state research institutes Agroscope www.agroscope.admin.ch and the Insititute of natural resource Sciences, Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW), www.lsfm.zhaw.ch/en/lsfm.html. Advice is provided by the cantonal advisory services and FiBL, which provided specialised advice to farmers as well as training courses and technical information for practicioners.

Challenges & outlook

One of the key challenges facing the Swiss organic sector is the relatively low domestic supply of organic food. Despite the rapidly growing market, the extent of organic agricultural land is only growing slowly. This challenge is currently being addressed by Bio Suisse, together with many other actors in the organic sector.

Further information

For other relevant websites, see the sections on key sector institutions and research & advice.

Contact

(Dr. rer. nat.) Helga Willer
Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL)
Department of Extension, Training and Communication
Ackerstrasse 113
5070 Frick
Switzerland
Tel.: +41 062 865 7207
Fax: +41 062 865 7273
helga.willer@no-spam.fibl.org
www.fibl.org