The agricultural sector is only a very small part of the Swiss economy, but it is very important for the tourism industry and the country's food security.
The primary sector contributed around 1% to Switzerland's gross domestic product in 2016 and generated annual revenues of CHF 10.1 billion in 2015. Half of this revenue came from livestock farming, primarily in the form of dairy products, while the other half is generated by crop farming. The vast majority of Swiss agricultural produce is destined for the domestic market, even though certain products like cheese and cereals are also exported.
Some 155,184 people are employed in this sector, 14% fewer than in 2005. Between 2005 and 2015, the number of agricultural businesses fell from 64,000 to 53,000. In 2015, each business farmed an area of 19.5 hectares. Three quarters specialised in animal production.
The Swiss farming industry has declined considerably over the last decade. In 1990 agriculture represented 2.2% of the value added created in Switzerland. This figure had fallen to 1.1% by 2000. The main reasons for this downward trajectory are the changing structure of the Swiss economy, which is increasingly geared towards the service sector, and competition from countries with lower agricultural production costs.
The benefits of Swiss agriculture are not purely economic. The agricultural sector uses around half of the surface area of the country and thus contributes to protecting and preserving the landscape. Swiss farmers also produce 55% of the food consumed in Switzerland (2014), thereby helping to safeguard national food security.
Organic farming has grown steadily in recent years. At present, more than 12.2% of all Swiss farms are organic. Organic products account for 7.7% of the entire Swiss food market.
Federal agricultural policy aims to protect this sector. In 2015 the federal government spent CHF 2.8 billion, or around 4.2% of its budget on direct payments to safeguard the farming industry and the national food supply.