Prepared for everything: What is the Swiss strategic stockpile?
With iodine tablets and nuclear fallout shelters on standby, it is clear that Switzerland likes to be prepared for everything. Alongside the essential items the government expects you to prepare in case of emergency, the entire country has a massive strategic stockpile, that includes everything from rice to blood bags.
What are Switzerland's strategic stockpiles?
The Swiss emergency supply system is a government programme that guarantees that essential goods will be available in times of crisis. The system relies mainly on the private sector, where international companies are paid to keep a certain amount of their product in reserve, at a total cost of 14 Swiss francs a year per person, paid through Swiss taxes.
The system has garnered international attention after the invasion of Ukraine as an example of how to prepare a nation for the shortages caused by conflict. Most recently, the government announced that it would be reinstituting a stockpile of seeds, to make it easier to rebuild in the event of a crisis.
History of strategic stockpiles in Switzerland
Being a landlocked nation highly dependent on imports, the Swiss people have always taken steps to ensure the supply of vital goods in the country. However, it was only during the First World War that the state began to get involved.
First World War caught Switzerland unprepared
The First World War caught Switzerland unprepared and under-supplied, causing chaos in the early years of the conflict. The shortage of food and essential supplies forced the government to create a Federal Food Office responsible for making sure there was enough to go around.
The shock of the conflict, and the subsequent general strike in 1918, meant that Switzerland used all the economic means at its disposal to make sure that the country was well prepared, should it ever happen again. During the Second World War, all vacant land was used to cultivate food and the government took steps to ensure supplies made it through.
Strategic stockpiles signed into law
In 1955, federal law established the precedent that every international company producing essential goods should keep a “compulsory reserve” of its product in Switzerland. Estimates by the Federal Office for National Economic Supply (FONES) say 2,4 billion Swiss francs' worth of goods are stored in the country for times of need.
What is stored in Switzerland for times of crisis?
To this day, thousands of tonnes of goods are stored away in warehouses throughout Switzerland, waiting to the used. Here are some of the things Switzerland stores for emergencies.
Switzerland has to import half of the food it consumes, meaning that if a war, crisis or disaster were to occur, chief among politicians' concerns would be how to feed the population. The current store of food is designed to feed the country for a short period of time before supply can be reestablished.
15.000 tonnes of coffee, 69.000 tonnes of sugar, 334.500 tonnes of wheat and 14.000 tonnes of rice are on standby at any given time in Switzerland. Along with food, Over 17.000 tonnes of fertiliser is stored along with 182.000 tonnes of animal feed, to get food production going again.
Fuel and energy
Should war occur, one of the main strategic issues Switzerland has is its reliance on the European power grid and imports of gas from abroad. That is why the country stores enough fuel, energy, diesel and heating oil to last 4,5 months.
Along with black gold, Switzerland also keeps 600 tonnes of uranium in reserve, although this is expected to decline in the coming years as nuclear power plants are decommissioned. Three months of jet fuel are also stored away.
Should Switzerland be cut off from the outside world, the government has made sure that adequate supplies of medication can reach the Swiss healthcare system. Antibiotics, anti-influenza medication, opiates, insulin and blood bags are all stored away. 103 million pieces of PPE are also in storage, along with a new and increasing supply of vaccines.
Switzerland more prepared than most for emergencies
The Swiss national stockpile is an excellent example of over preparation for crises, borne out of two conflicts where Switzerland was not militarily involved but suffered the supply shortages associated with them. With this stockpile, Switzerland is better prepared than most other countries for the worst.