Farmers earned more money in 2004
Swiss farmers earned more money last year than in the three previous years thanks to good weather and better market conditions.
The Swiss Farmers’ Union has commented that it is satisfied with the development but has warned against overenthusiasm.
According to provisional figures published on Monday by the Federal Research Station for Agricultural Economics and Engineering, the net income made on average by each farm was SFr62,300 ($52,221).
Between the years 2001 and 2003, the figure stood at an average SFr53,000.
Gross income was also up from SFr196,800 to SFr219,800.
After the exceptional heat wave of 2003, which caused serious losses in vegetable production, last year brought better harvests.
A "satisfactory" price for fruits and good production of fodder were behind the rise in net income compared with the three previous years.
But an increase in milk production could only partially compensate for a reduction of prices.
The Swiss Farmers’ Union welcomed the news, which it said gave "prospects for the future" to farmers.
But it regretted that the economic situation was becoming more difficult in dairy farming which was "the most important agricultural production sector".
"These good results do no mean that agriculture has surmounted all the obstacles and should not cause overenthusiasm in the face of future reforms," the farmers’ union said.
Monday’s figures come amid tough times for Swiss farms and farmers, with around 2,000 farms going out of business every year.
In February, the government announced a SFr13.54 billion ($11.35 billion) financial package for farmers. The figure, earmarked for 2008-2011, is SFr634 million less than the existing four-year agriculture budget.
The central aim of the four-year programme is to reduce subsidies, such as those used to underpin butter prices and to increase direct payments.
The new programme, which has to be approved by parliament, is designed to comply with the demands of the Geneva-based World Trade Organization (WTO).
Tariffs and subsidies
Last August Switzerland signed an international agreement with the WTO, which foresees the gradual phasing out of protective tariffs and subsidies for farmers.
But the Swiss government has come under fire from the world trade body for moving too slowly towards reducing agricultural subsidies.
In a report issued in December, the WTO said the level of state subsidies for farming had not changed for four years, although it noted a gradual move away from price support towards direct payments.
"Certain quarters will say we are not going far enough," commented Economics Minister Joseph Deiss at the time.
"But I cannot recall any sector that has had to undergo such a major restructuring in the past 15 years."
Farmers’ unions have already taken steps to reduce production costs – one of the main reasons food prices in Switzerland are generally higher than in other European countries.
Farmers are also having to contend with the liberalisation of the cheese market in 2007 to bring it into line with the European Union, as well as the gradual abolition of milk quotas.
swissinfo with agencies
Agricultural income increased in 2004 by almost SFr10,000 ($8,382) to SFr62,300 per farm.
Income per working person also rose by almost SFr10,000 to SFr41,200, compared with the three previous years.
The figures come from data from 1,051 farms, which represent about a third of those analysed each year.
They cultivate on average 19 hectares and employ 1.22 family members.
Complete results from the Federal Research Station for Agricultural Economics and Engineering will come out at the end of August.
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