Swiss farmers are heavily supported by taxpayers. In addition to higher taxes, Swiss consumers must also dig deep to cover the import tariffs built into some food prices. Tariffs on meat are well known. But they are also significant on some vegetables, reports SRF.
During Switzerland’s cherry tomato harvest season, which runs from May to October, the import tariff on tomatoes is CHF 731 per 100 kilograms. This means a 500g box of cherry tomatoes comes with a surcharge of CHF 3.66. Other vegetables with high tariffs include carrots (CHF 710 per 100kg) and strawberries (CHF 510 per 100kg).
The price household’s pay for food matters. In 2020, an average household spent around 10% of their income on food, including restaurant meals, according to the Federal Statistical Office.
Producing food in Switzerland is essentially uneconomic. If Swiss farmers were forced to face the market their businesses would fail fast. Without taxpayer support they would need to price products at prices few would pay. And without tariffs relatively lower priced imports would leave Swiss farmers with few customers. Farmers’ very existence largely depends on taxpayer largess and consumers paying artificially inflated prices.
Direct public payments to Swiss farmers total around CHF 3 billion a year. This comes out at around CHF 1,400 per household a year, assuming a household is made up of two parents and two children.
Why does the Swiss public support its farmers so heavily? It depends who you ask. Many are unaware of how much they are paying in extra taxes and artificially inflated prices. Some know but view the extra money paid as a donation to maintain Switzerland as they know it. Others would like to see change but don’t see a political avenue to bring it about.
Political arguments in favour of the current structure typically centre on guaranteeing local food security. A widely held secondary argument is that these payments give governments leverage to force farmers to be more environmentally friendly, although there are few actions as environmentally beneficial as returning land to its natural state.
However, the current system comes at a high cost, and the additional cost is not always apparent. Nor is it particularly optional.
SRF article (in German)