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Switzerland steps in to help heat-struck farmers

Dry as a bone: watering a field in Founex, near Geneva. Keystone

The government announced on Monday a range of temporary measures to ease the heatwave-related difficulties faced by many farmers across the country.

This content was published on August 6, 2018 - 17:47
Reuters/SDA-ATS/dos

Notably, customs tariffs on imported roughage such as hay and silo maize will be brought down to zero from CHF3 ($3.02) per 100kg, announced economics and agriculture minister, Johann Schneider Amman.

Drought-affected farms in certain parts of the country have been forced to dip into winter reserves of fodder or purchase from other parts of the country or abroad; removing the tariff will compensate for a rise in import prices driven by the heatwave over much of Europe.

“The persistent drought places the agriculture sector in a difficult situation on various levels,” said a government press release, which specified that the measures would aim to complement steps already taken at the cantonal, or regional, level.

One such step includes a more flexible approach to direct payments, or grants, which are handled by cantons. Because of the current situation, writes the government, the money can be paid in full even if the conditions are not fully met.

Federal authorities also plan to provide interest-free loans to farmers struggling to balance their books.

“The greatest difficulty for farmers concerned is the maintenance of liquidity and the general improvement of the operating situation. A repayable, interest-free operating loan can help here,” they said.

The measures come in response to calls by the Farmers’ Union over the past weekend to provide help for a drought-hit agricultural sector.

A spokesman for the federal agriculture agency told the Reuters news agency that it was unclear at this stage what the temporary measures would ultimately cost.

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