July 10: The day Switzerland would run out of food without imports

July 10: The day Switzerland would run out of food without imports

A new study from the Swiss Farmers' Union (SBV) has found that, without imports from overseas, the food aisles of supermarkets in Switzerland would be bare from July 10 onwards. The alpine nation remains one of the biggest food importers, especially compared to other European nations.

Switzerland only produces enough food for half the year

In the report, the SBV named July 9 as Switzerland’s Food Overshoot Day - the day when the country would run out of food if it had to rely on domestic supply alone. “From [July 10] until the end of the year, the Swiss population is dependent on imported food and thus land abroad to meet its needs,” they wrote.

While Switzerland has always had to import food to sustain its population, the report found that farmers across the cantons only produce around 52 percent of the country’s annual food needs. Data from the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) found that the country produces 96 percent of the animal products it consumes, but only cultivates 33 percent of crops and other goods. “This makes Switzerland one of the largest net importers in the world,” the report noted. 

Swiss Food Overshoot Day in dramatic contrast to rest of Europe

The findings are in dramatic contrast to other nations in Europe: in Switzerland’s northern neighbour Germany, domestic food production accounts for 88 percent of the country’s needs, meaning its Food Overshoot Day is November 1. In France, there is enough food produced locally to feed the population year-round.

In the statement, the SBV said that Switzerland’s reliance on imports made it vulnerable in an unstable world. “Global production areas are already in short supply. A war in an important export country or a year of extreme weather is enough to ensure that all people in the world can no longer be supplied with sufficient food,” they noted, adding that population growth, overbuilding, erosion, shortages of water and salination were all having an impact on supplies.

Efforts to address climate change hampered by food imports

In addition, the SBV noted that imported foods also make it harder to achieve Switzerland’s climate goals. They cited a recent report from the Federal Office for the Environment, which found that two-thirds of the country’s carbon footprint is generated from food and items made and imported from abroad. 

“The less we produce domestically and import instead, the more the food burdens the Earth. Protecting our own production areas and domestic agriculture is therefore important not only for food security but also from a global environmental perspective,” they concluded.

Population growth the reason Switzerland relies on food imports

In their most recent report, the FSO wrote that while it is true that reliance on imported food had increased in Switzerland - in 1990, domestic supply covered 60 percent of food consumption - this phenomenon is mainly due to population growth rather than a decline in arable land. 

Geography also has a part to play: as only around 36 percent of the territory of Switzerland is designated as arable farmland - 70 percent of which is devoted to rearing cows and other animals rather than more calorie-efficient foods like beans and peas - feeding the population becomes an even bigger challenge.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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