Because of foreign competition: Should the federal government provide more money for the marketing of Swiss wine?
In order to promote sales of Swiss wine, the federal government is to invest nine million francs a year – and thus support winegrowers in the fight against foreign competition. The National Council wants that. There is resistance in the Council of States.
In the future, the federal government is to invest nine million francs a year in advertising, market research and other sales promotion measures for Swiss wine. This was decided by the National Council last June.
On Monday, the Economic Commission of the Council of States discussed the deal – and recommended that its council members reject the motion, as she writes in a statement: “The majority considers the one-off increase in funds to nine million francs that has already been decided as part of the 2023 budget appropriate, but does not want to create a legal basis for permanent increases. »
To the great annoyance of Jacques Bourgeois, National Councilor (FDP/FR) and President of the Swiss Winegrowers’ Association: “These additional financial resources for Swiss wine would be absolutely necessary. In contrast to other agricultural products, local wine is completely exposed to international competition because it has practically no border protection.»
This is one of the reasons why the market share of Swiss wine in this country is only 35 percent – and thus around ten percent lower than 25 years ago. According to Bourgeois, the goal is to increase this share to at least 40 percent in the next few years.
A comparison with other countries shows that the sale of domestic wine receives comparatively little support: “Italy spends 18 million Swiss francs a year in Switzerland to promote Italian wines,” says Bourgeois. In order for the battle for Swiss customers to be fought fairly, the support contributions need to be level.
Three million annually for sales promotion
To put this in context: the federal government spends around 64 million francs a year on promoting sales of Swiss products. In the past four years, the Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG) has supported the sale of Swiss wine with around three million francs annually. In the Corona years 2020 and 2021, another million francs were added in the form of emergency aid.
This emergency aid has already been reduced for 2022 and completely canceled at the beginning of this year. If the Council of States follows the proposal of the preliminary advisory commission, nine million Swiss francs will flow into the marketing of Swiss wine this year. From 2024, the amount will then be reduced again to three million per year.
The following applies: the federal government only pays out the funds if at least half of the costs for sales promotion are made available by the affected industry itself. In the present case, the wine industry must also loosen nine million francs in the current year in order to be able to benefit from the federal funds. It is unclear whether this will succeed.
Commission against climate reserve
The Council of States Economic Commission rejects another proposal from its sister commission: it demands that a so-called climate reserve be introduced for Swiss wine. This should make it possible to harvest more grapes per square meter in good harvest years than the cantons generally allow for quality reasons. This is intended to compensate for poor harvests in subsequent years. However, the Economic Commission of the Council of States sees “no need for action” here, the cantons would already have “other options for creating reserves”.
Parties are divided
Meanwhile, the debate in the National Council has shown that the demand for additional advertising material for Swiss wine is supported by all parties. While the majority of the SVP and Center National Councilors voted in favor of the bill, the Greens, SP and FDP factions were split: one half supported the motion, the other rejected it. The majority of the GLP was against the motion.
The Federal Council is also one of the opponents of the bill. In his official statement, he argues in a similar way to the Economic Commission of the State Council: the government understands “the concerns of the Swiss wine industry”.
However, the increase in sales promotion to nine million francs per year would lead to “unequal treatment compared to other agricultural sectors”, according to the Federal Council. In addition, the linking of sales promotion to sustainability and quality criteria demanded by the motionmakers is “difficult to implement” in practice.