Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture, Bern

Agricultural prices: Is history repeating itself?

The development of prices for agricultural products over the past eight hundred years can be divided into four phases. The first three phases were characterised by periods of increase and decrease. Until the middle of the 19th century these fluctuations corresponded closely to the rise in population and the occurrence of wars and epidemics. The fourth phase started at the end of the 19th century and saw prices depending far less on the rise in population: prices fell steadily as the population increased rapidly. The principal factor that influenced this phase was industrialisation. Since 2000 prices for agricultural products have been increasing again. Is this the start of a new phase of price growth? There are various indications that this is indeed the case. History has shown the direction in which prices for agricultural products may go as a result of population rises, climate

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