Farm numbers drop

The number of farms in Switzerland dropped below 60,000 last year for the first time, according to figures released by the Federal Statistics Office on Tuesday.

This content was published on August 2, 2011 - 12:20 and agencies

Farming now employs 3.3 per cent of the Swiss work force; in 1905, when there were more than a quarter of a million farms, it was 41 per cent. Farms today are on average nearly four times bigger than they were then.

In the middle of 2010 there were 59,065 farms, a 1.6 per cent fall over the year before. The number of people working on farms – 167,462 – was down by 1.4 per cent.

The decrease was most marked in medium-sized farms – defined as those with an area of between three and 20 hectares – which dropped by about 1000 to 32,000. The number of small farms remained more or less the same, at 6,700.

However, the number of large farms increased. The average size of farm increased by 0.2 per cent, to 17.8 hectares.

After an upsurge in organic farming which peaked in 2007 at 6,200, the number of such farms continued to fall in 2010, and now stands at 5,659. Of these, more than 40 per cent are in cantons Graubünden and Bern. The trend towards larger farms is visible in this sector too.

Just over 40 per cent of farms are in mountain areas. Meadows account for 70 per cent of land used in farming, while 25 per cent is used for grain or vegetables. The rest is mainly given over to long-term use, such as vineyards and orchards.

The number of cattle has remained constant over the last ten years, at about 1.6 million, while the number of pigs has slightly increased. There has been a big rise in the number of poultry – up by more than two million in 10 years, to stand at over nine million. There has also been a large increase in alpacas, llamas and deer over the last ten years.

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