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Agroscope

Increasing Food-Security Challenges Faced by Switzerland

Agroscope Science  |  No. 124, 1-25, 2021

Agroscope conducts an annual analysis of the risks to food supply on behalf of the Swiss Federal Office for Economic Supply FONES. In 2021, a power shortage, seed imports and climate change were addressed as particular risks. 

The annual assessment aims to proactively ensure food security in situations of severe shortages of vital goods in a constantly changing environment.

Decline in production and a growing population

According to forecasts, global food production is able to keep pace with population growth in the medium term. In Switzerland, however, this is no longer the case: whilst the population figures continue to grow, the trend in domestic production has been declining slightly for some years now. Consequently, the need for food imports has tended to increase, although per-capita consumption has fallen slightly over the same period.

The food sector has remained resilient even during the pandemic

In 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic led to numerous significant changes in commodity flows in the agriculture and food sector both in Switzerland and abroad. International markets proved resilient in spite of logistical challenges and export restrictions in individual countries, but access to adequate nutrition deteriorated for poorer people as a result of rising food prices. In Switzerland, supplies of essential foods have remained secure throughout. Due to pandemic restrictions the catering trade suffered losses of 20 to 30 per cent, whilst the retail trade chalked up record sales. From February 2020, the Nutrition Division of the Federal Office for Economic Supply has constantly monitored the situation to allow the rapid detection of any looming threat of shortages of vital foodstuffs or means of production. No nutrition-specific measures have needed to be taken, however.

Uncertainties and multiple risks increase

The agriculture and food sector operates in an increasingly complex environment. Some of the manifold threats to security of supply could gain in importance in future:

Power shortages: Both the probability of and the potential damage from a serious power shortage are particularly high compared to other risks. Supplies of vital foodstuffs would be massively affected. The effects would be manifold, and would not be overcome quickly with the current measures implemented by the Nutrition Division of the Federal Office for Economic Supply. Accordingly, household emergency stocks are of great importance.

Means of production: The Swiss agriculture and food sector is dependent on the availability of means of production. Vulnerability is particularly high in the case of foodstuffs or crops whose cultivation is mostly or completely based on seed imports.

Climate change: Increased volatility is expected in agricultural production as a result of climate change. At the end of 2021, the current and future risks to security of supply will be the subject of a risk analysis by FONES to be published every four years.

Conclusions

  •  The COVID-19 pandemic has confirmed the high level of food security in Switzerland, even in crisis situations.
  • To ensure supply during a severe shortage, Switzerland is dependent on substantial imports, and thus on upholding trade and transport processes to the greatest extent possible.
  • Measures for ensuring security of supply must be examined proactively owing to the increasingly complex risks that are faced.

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Increasing Food-Security Challenges Faced by Switzerland

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