Swiss food sector defies the challenges

Despite the current challenges of e.g. the war in Ukraine and climate change, the Swiss food sector is relatively resilient. This is the conclusion of this year's food security report by Agroscope on behalf of the Swiss Federal Office for National Economic Supply.

agroscope-original

On a global level, food-production trends up to mid-2022 were quite positive. Growing conditions were relatively favourable in many regions of the world. However, the war in Ukraine led to export reductions and accelerated price increases for both foodstuffs and the agricultural production inputs such as energy sources and fertilisers. This in turn aggravated food-supply problems in many poorer regions of the world, with the Ukrainian-and-Russian-grain-dependent countries in North Africa and the Middle East being particularly hard-hit.

In Europe, although climate trends such as drought adversely affect agricultural production, the risk to the food supply is quite owing to the high degree of self-sufficiency.  Even so, in light of the increasing risks, the EU has taken various measures to safeguard supply, such as enhanced situation monitoring and the setting up of the European Food Security Crisis Preparedness and Response Mechanism (EFSCM). In addition, measures designed to cushion the impact of rising food prices are being taken in individual member countries.

In Switzerland too, it is safe to assume that rising production costs in agriculture and in the food-processing industry mean that consumers will be affected by persistent price increases for foodstuffs. Because of high Swiss purchasing power and the stable availability of agricultural products on the global market, supply is not conceivably at risk as of mid-2022. Nevertheless, the following uncertainty factors call for close monitoring of how the current situation develops:

  • War in Ukraine: Only a small percentage of the food and production inputs imported into Switzerland come directly from Ukraine or Russia. Even so, further cost and price increases as well as supply shortages in certain segments (e.g. replacement parts for machinery, additives for the processing of raw products) cannot be ruled out.
  • Dependence on production inputs: The Swiss agriculture and food sector is heavily dependent on imported production inputs and on functioning infrastructures (e.g. provision with energy as well as information and communication technologies). In the worst-case scenario, adverse effects in an important area can lead via cascade effects to severe shortages in individual sectors.
  • Price volatility: Sharply rising prices jeopardise food security, especially for people in the world’s poorest countries. The economic or political upheavals triggered by this can also affect the provision of supplies to Switzerland, however.
  • Climate change: Hot, dry summers will likely occur more frequently in Switzerland. As a result, increasingly variable crop yields are to be expected.

If additional supply-related events were to occur in the current, already tense situation (e.g. large-scale harvest losses owing to extreme weather events, prolonged logistics breakdown or significant cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure), the situation would have to be reassessed.

The current and future risks to the security of supply are the subject of the Report on Risks to National Economic Supply (PDF, 1 MB, 24.06.2022).

Conclusions

The findings of this report lead to the following key statements for the short- and medium-term:

  • Global food security is decreasing, and could remain at lower levels.
    Despite increased understanding of the fundamental relationships between adequate production and timely distribution of foodstuffs and the means of production to ensure the adequate provision of food supplies, in the near future global coordination is likely to remain insufficient to effectively meet the growing challenges.
  • The challenges along the supply chain of ensuring an adequate food supply for the Swiss population will increase.
    Value-chain specialisation creates more and more dependencies, whilst the number of possible hazards (e.g. cyber-attacks, energy shortages) that could lead to severe shortages is rising.
  • Anticipating and ensuring preparedness for potential severe shortages in Switzerland poses major challenges.
    Due to the increasing complexities, many coping strategies can only be prepared in principle, and additionally call for measures that go beyond the food sector and need to be planned in coordination with other sectors.
  • Despite the challenges, the resilience of the Swiss food sector is high. Cooperation between industry and the State as well as international cooperation remain exceptionally important.
    In the crises of the past three years, industry has given proof of its adaptability in ensuring the provision of supplies. The close cooperation between industry and state has also stood the test. Global, European and national cooperation is becoming increasingly essential in order to ensure the provision of supplies in severe shortage situations.

Agroscope Study (in German)

Additional information

Last modification 19.09.2022

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