Russia – Switzerland cooperation:

positive dynamic and growth prospects

Galina Shliakhova


Switzerland is famous not only for its various organic milk products or sublime wine, but also for a strong scientific culture and widely applied innovative technologies. Mr. Adrian Aebi, Deputy director general at the Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture, told our journal about some achievements in the agrarian sector and the current cooperation with Russia.

русскоязычная версия

– What could you say about Russia–Switzerland cooperation in agrarian field? Do our countries have some joint projects and exchange experience in such areas as new technologies, veterinary practice in animal husbandry, plant breeding, etc.?

– We observe a manifold cooperation between Russia and Switzerland on several levels. Beyond cooperation between private companies, individuals and investors, some cooperation takes place between the ministries, administrations and scientific communities.
For example, we recently had a study visit from a Russian delegation in the field of milk production and processing.
With regard to the scientific community, the Swiss Agroscope Research Institute is cooperating in several areas with Russian institutes, such as with the Lorch Potato Research Institute in the Moscow region, in the area of seed production in the Northern Ossetia and Woronesh region or in the area of climate change and the impact on agricultural production (together with the Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring) in the Kaluga region. Beyond this, a cooperation concerning the suitability of Russian grain types for a use in Switzerland has been started with the Federal scientific center for legumes and groat crops in the Orlow region.
Equally, let me mention cooperation in trade-related areas. Taking an example, Russian and Swiss authorities are cooperating closely in the field of plant health, assuring that plant products traded between our countries are safe and traceable.

— What is general dynamics of both countries’ bilateral relations in food trade within the current world economic context?

– I would assess the trade in agriculture and food products between Russia and Switzerland as positively dynamic, but with important growth potential in both ways. I am happy to see that in times of global economic challenges, trade relations between Russia and Switzerland do nevertheless allow for a positive development for some products.

– According to statistics, Switzerland ensures almost more than 60% of food self-sufficiency. Which goods are nevertheless imported from abroad? To what extent do you import raw materials, final products and technologies from Russia?

— – Indeed Switzerland’s self-sufficiency rate is around 60% in average. For a few products, such as milk & milk products, our self-sufficiency is beyond 100%; for most of the other products, we are an important net-importer. As Switzerland is a mountainous country with a temperate climate with a short production season, we import seasonal products such as fruits & vegetables, outside our production season.

Also for some staple foods such as cereals or vegetable oils, the local production only provides for a small share of the consumption and imports help to fill the gap.
Switzerland does indeed import agricultural products from Russia. Of course, the famous Vodka is among the top 5 products. We also import animal feed products, mushrooms, vegetable oils and many more.

– Which items of goods exported from Switzerland are most in demand on Russian market?

– Regarding the exports from Switzerland to Russia, we are happy to see that some Russian customers appreciate Swiss cheese – we mainly export semi-hard and hard cheeses to Russia. Beside cheese and some other dairy products such as baby-food, Switzerland exports “luxury” products to Russia, such as chocolate, coffee and ice cream.

– Swiss cheese is indeed worldly famous by their quality. Obviously, this is achieved not only by processing technologies, but also by commodity production. Please, tell about key success factors of Swiss dairy farming.

Copyright : Fotolia / FOAG

– I am happy to note that our cheese and wine production seem to have a positive connotation in Russia. In my view, developing a high-quality product with a good reputation is a long-term objective. As for Switzerland’s cheese production, this is a story going back more than a hundred years. With big areas of alpine meadows, our farmers always had an incentive to produce cheese in order to conserve milk beyond the summer period. Over time, farmers developed some important practices along the value chain such as good hygiene standards, short ways and reduced timespan between milk production and processing and a strong focus on consumer’s preferences. Until today, farmers maintain these basic rules. Nevertheless, they are shifting to more modern processing techniques. We, however, still have a large number of small cheese production plants. Agricultural policy measures support farmers by providing a good environment for agricultural production, for example with incentives to keep alpine meadows productive with support for research and education.

— It is recalled that Swiss agriculture is mainly dominated by animal husbandry. What are the chief tendencies of this sector? What is more prevalent – small farms with free grazing or huge livestock breeding businesses?

– Switzerland’s agricultural policy attaches high importance on family farming and ownership-driven agricultural production. This limits in some ways the overall size of farms. In addition, geographical conditions do not allow for large-scale production units. Consequently, our focus is on improvements for farming within rather small production units. The objectives of our policy reform package – currently in preparation for debate in parliament – are grouped under three objectives: more environmental-friendly production, more market orientation and strengthening of the farm as an entrepreneurial unit.

– Nowadays Swiss food market is known as one of the most “eco-friendly”. What place has organic production taken on the national market? Is it in highest demand? Is there any legislative regulation of organic food market or only manufactures’ self-control?

– Swiss consumers show a preference for regional and organic food. We have a legislation for organic production, which is in place since several years. Private companies and organisations have established labels, some of which require additional standards of production compared with the legislation. Control organizations that are responsible for the controls are themselves certified by the Federal (central) administration. This system is efficient and reliable. It makes farmers and private organizations accountable and, at the same time, ensures that they comply with legal obligations at every step of the production chain.

– What promising innovations seem to Swiss agribusiness particularly important?

– We are currently working towards the next level of digitalization in agricultural production. Even though we do not know now where digitalization will take us exactly, we are convinced that farming will be better, more efficient, more environmentally friendly and more transparent for consumers if we use up-to-date technology to the extent possible.

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