Switzerland is heavily dependent upon imports, so maintaining reserves of certain goods is a very important precautionary measure in ensuring security of supply. If an unforeseen crisis means that the market is no longer able to satisfy demand for vital basic goods, having reserves to release as needed is a valuable instrument for NES.


Indispensable compulsory stocks

The COVID-19 pandemic clearly shows the importance of compulsory stocks in Switzerland: shortages in the supply of therapeutic products do occur from time to time. During the pandemic, however, they are occurring more frequently. In 2020, compulsory stocks of medicines were released a total of 92 times, mostly antibiotics. And in February 2020, the federal government bought up the compulsory stocks of FFP2/3 masks and distributed them to the cantons via the Armed Forces Pharmacy.

The compulsory stocks do not only consist of masks and therapeutic products. Around 300 companies currently hold compulsory stocks of a wide range of goods, from basic foodstuffs to fuel and fertiliser. The total value of the stocks is currently estimated at around CHF 2.5 billion.

The federal government determines which essential goods must be stockpiled. The range of goods has changed considerably since the 1990s: Metals, textiles or even soap and detergents are no longer held in compulsory stocks. Therapeutic products, however, have gained in importance. The federal government also recommends that private households keep about a week’s worth of emergency supplies of food and water. These emergency supplies should also contain personal medicines, masks and cash.

vsao Journal february 2021: the swiss compulsory stocks system (in german) (PDF, 505 kB, 25.02.2021)


The federal government and the private sector work together to maintain the system of compulsory stocks. The Confederation determines which goods and how much of them need to be stocked. However, the stocks are the property of private businesses rather than of the government, and are managed by them. On 1 February 2021 around 300 private companies held compulsory stocks.

The costs of maintaining compulsory stocks are included by companies in the sales prices and are thus borne by the consumer.

Each person in Switzerland pays about CHF 12 a year on average towards NES in this way (status: 1 February 2021).

Additional information

Last modification 25.02.2021

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