Organic revolution slows in Switzerland

Swiss farmers are continuing to convert to pesticide- and fertilizer-free crops Keystone

More and more Swiss are choosing to buy organic products, with sales totalling SFr1.13 billion ($890 million) last year.

This content was published on March 23, 2004 minutes

But the increase that the organic market has been experiencing over recent years is slowing.

Bio Suisse, the Swiss association for organic organisations, said total sales of organic produce increased by seven per cent in 2003. But growth was slower than in 2002, when sales increased 13 per cent over the previous year.

Bio Suisse said growth was stronger in western Switzerland than in the German-speaking part, where the consumption of organic produce held steady.

Cordelia Galli, spokeswoman for Bio Suisse, said the fact sales were continuing to rise was encouraging.

“This is despite surveys showing that some consumers are put off by the higher prices often charged for organic products,” Galli said.

She added that around 70 per cent of Swiss consumers were familiar with the bud symbol indicating goods from pesticide- and fertiliser-free production.

Bio Suisse’s aim is to reach the SFr2 billion mark for sales of organic goods.

Meanwhile, the number of farms with the Swiss certification for organic crops also continued to rise steadily, with more than 200 converting to pesticide- and fertiliser-free farming in 2003.

This increase brought the total of organic farms in Switzerland was 6,445 at the end of last year - 11 per cent of all Swiss farms.

Fresh produce

On average, each Swiss spent SFr155 on organic produce in 2003.

Consumers are mostly drawn to fresh organic products, such as dairy products, meat, bread, eggs, fruit and vegetables. Last year, organic products made up 7.5 per cent of fresh food sales, with a total of SFr701 million, up SFr45 million from 2002.

Organic bread saw the strongest growth in sales, up by more than a third from the previous year. Organic milk is also becoming more popular.

However, sales of fruit, vegetables and eggs have either stagnated or decreased.

Planet bio

Bio Suisse plans to launch a project at the end of April, aimed at encouraging teenagers to take a greater interest in organic products.

Called “Planet Bio Suisse”, the project will give students from French- and German-speaking Switzerland the opportunity to spend a day with families who own organic farms.

The students will be taught about organic farming techniques and will be given the opportunity to lend a hand on the farm.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The total land area cultivated for organic crops in Switzerland has doubled since 1996.

Canton Graubunden has the most organic farming in Switzerland, with more than 50% of its farmers cultivating pesticide- and fertilizer-free crops.

Switzerland’s two largest supermarkets, Coop and Migros, account for about 75% of the country’s organic products.

According to Bio Suisse, 70% of Swiss consumers are familiar with the bud symbol, which certifies that a product is organic.

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Key facts

Yearly growth in sales of organic products:
2000: 21%
2001: 18%
2002: 13%
2003: 7%

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