The news release from the Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture looks unspectacular. But … it isn’t at all.
«The tariff quota for butter will be increased further,» said the Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG) on Thursday. If you then look deeper into the matter, there is still some explosive material: For the fourth time the quota for butter that can be imported into Switzerland has had to be increased this year.
According to the assessment of the milk industry association, the domestic supply of butter is not sufficient in this current year. Since a large part of Swiss milk is processed into cheese, there is not enough left over for butter production, it said. In addition, the total milk production is lower than expected. According to the communiqué, the milk industry organization wrote in its application that the situation in the milk market would be difficult to assess for the coming months.
The FOAG then decided to approve the application from the milk industry organization and to increase the tariff quota for butter by a further 1,000 tonnes from August 22, 2022 until the end of the year. The additional quota will be auctioned off, as usual.
So far, the FOAG has already released 5,100 tonnes of butter for import in the current year. On average, demand in Switzerland is over 40,000 tonnes of butter per year. The import share is thus around 13 percent this year.
The whole procedure shows that the officials are pretty wrong with their assessments of the actual butter consumption and supply in Switzerland. Shouldn’t they have intervened the second time and said «No, Switzerland had to import significantly more butter?» Well, the civil servants don’t know how the whole situation is developing and – as many examples show – government orders are usually of little use.
But why can’t everyone simply import butter as much as he or she wants, especially since butter is usually much cheaper abroad? This is due to the protection of Swiss agriculture. Switzerland is trying to help local farmers by controlling quantities and thus supporting the price level.
In addition to all the quotas, the import of butter and cream (fat content from 15 percent) is also limited to one kilo/litre per day duty-free for private individuals. After that, 16 francs per litre or per kilogram will be charged for excess quantities. And, according to the customs regulation, the import of animal products from countries other than EU member states and Norway is banned anyway, further limiting import opportunities.