How ecologically competitive are Swiss agricultural products in comparison to imports? This question becomes more important when the framework conditions for foreign trade change. In this sutdy, we outlined the strengths and weaknesses of Swiss cereal, potato, milk and meat production by comparing Swiss produce with that of our major import countries.
With the 2014-2017 Agricultural Policy, the Swiss Federal Government aims to strengthen production and improve farmers' incomes while simultaneously boosting the environmental performance of agriculture. In order to achieve these aims, the Swiss Federal Council defined safe and competitive food production and supply as well as an efficient resource use as some of the main thrusts of agricultural policy.
Particularly with a change in the framework conditions for the foreign trade of agricultural products, the ecological competitiveness of the Swiss agricultural sector is becoming increasingly important. However, the underlying data for a comparison of the strengths and weaknesses of agricultural production in Switzerland with those of our major import countries is currently inadequate.
Against this backdrop, we were running a project for the ecological evaluation of selected Swiss agricultural products in comparison with their imported equivalents. The project considered the environmental impacts of wheat, barley, potatoes, milk and meat at two levels:
- Comparison of environmental impacts of agricultural production: The focus was on an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses up to the farm-gate system boundary.
- Comparison of environmental impacts of the provision of food and feed: The system boundary here was the point of sale or the feed mill.
A comparison between Switzerland, France and Germany was performed for all products. In addition to this, potatoes from the Netherlands, milk from Italy and meat from Brazil were also considered.