Economies of scale can significantly improve the competitiveness of the Swiss agricultural sector. In order to understand the development behind the farm size structure, the underlying sub-processes of land transfers are examined in-depth. Each year, between 4 % and 5 % of the total utilised agricultural area are transferred due to the closing down or start-up of farms, intergenerational farm transfers or the growth and shrinkage of farms. While this share is significant, the theoretical potential for a net shift of surfaces towards bigger farms is by no means fully exploited. Only few farms of above-average size are set up, numerous small and middle-sized farms are taken over by the next generation and surfaces which become vacant are concentrated in middle-sized farms. However, the ongoing development of size structure is slow and restricts the potential reduction of production costs which is so important given the challenges to be expected in the future.
To balance their nutrient cycles, Swiss farms export surplus farmyard manure to farms with free uptake capacities or to composting and anaerobic digestion facilities. Between 2015 and 2020 the volumes of organic manure and recycled fertilisers transported rose significantly, with a consequent increase in transport costs.
Employment in the agricultural sector is declining in many European countries, especially in livestock farming. Direct payments can counter this trend and lead to the employment of more – especially female – family members on the farm.
Despite the current challenges of e.g. the war in Ukraine and climate change, the Swiss food sector is relatively resilient. This is the conclusion reached by Agroscope’s report on behalf of the Swiss Federal Office for National Economic Supply.