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Parliament wants to permanently increase sales promotion for wine

Updated at 11 Mar 2024 6:10 pm

Parliament has set the Confederation targets for financially promoting the sale of Swiss wine and is calling for the amount of nine million francs per year. The Council of States passed a motion to this effect on Monday.

The small chamber decided by 30 votes to 12, with one abstention, at the request of the minority of its Economic Affairs Committee (WAK-S). The motion by the National Council's Economic Affairs Committee is therefore now with the Federal Council. The large chamber had supported it in June 2022 by 98 votes to 61 with 22 abstentions.

Swiss wines under pressure

In the Council of States, the minority prevailed. It argued that there was practically no longer any border protection for Swiss wine, as Fabio Regazzi (center/TI) explained. Swiss wines were therefore coming under increasing pressure due to the high advertising budgets of foreign producers. In addition, there were concessions in free trade agreements, for example with Chile.

During the budget debate, Parliament approved the increase in wine sales promotion to CHF 9 million. However, the majority did not want the increase to be permanent.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, wine sales were subsidized by the federal government with CHF 2.8 million per year. However, the amount was then temporarily increased due to the pandemic. Agriculture Minister Guy Parmelin unsuccessfully opposed the motion, citing the federal government's tight finances.

If necessary, sales promotion could be adjusted according to the situation, said Pirmin Bischof (center/SO) on behalf of the opposing and defeated majority. Wine and other agricultural product groups should also not be treated unequally.

More flexibility in the vineyard

On Monday, the Council of States approved two further motions from the National Council on viticulture. According to Parliament, winegrowers should be given more entrepreneurial freedom when clearing and replanting vineyards. It wants to remove the ten-year deadline for replanting from the Wine Ordinance. The Federal Council must now act against its will.

If an area of vineyard is cleared, it must be replanted with vines within ten years in accordance with current legislation. If this is not the case, the area is deleted from the vineyard register and is lost to viticulture.

Here too, the Council of States followed a minority of its Economic Affairs Committee. It felt that winegrowers would have more flexibility without this deadline. Carlo Sommaruga (SP/GE) saw the abolition of the ten-year deadline as an opportunity to establish more biodiversity-friendly vine plantations.

No interest in regulation

Baptiste Hurni (SP/BE) added that when the regulation was created in the 1950s, the aim was to avoid too many vineyards. Since then, however, the vineyard areas have shrunk. There is no longer any interest in the ten-year deadline.

The majority of the commission was against the demand. Peter Hegglin (center/ZG) argued that it mainly protected those who wanted to give up a vineyard. The deadline introduced in 1953 had proved its worth and gave winegrowers a certain degree of security.

Agriculture Minister Guy Parmelin also rejected the demand. Without the deadline, cleared vineyards would remain in the land register forever, he said. The competence for flexibility should remain with the cantons, he warned. According to agricultural statistics, there were around 13,800 hectares of vineyards in Switzerland in 2023.

"Climate reserve" for AOC wines

Finally, the federal government should create a "climate reserve" for Swiss wine. This should serve as a "fluctuation reserve" so that the market can be supplied with a sufficient quantity of Swiss AOC wine in years with a poor harvest.

The Council of States approved a parliamentary initiative by the National Council's Economic Affairs Committee (WAK-N) by 24 votes to 15. The National Council committee can now draw up a legislative proposal.

The majority of the Council of States committee opposed the proposal in vain. Martin Schmid (FDP/GR) said on behalf of the opposing majority that it was up to winegrowers to build up reserves and balance out different harvests. The cantons and sector organizations could also manage their harvest reserves themselves.

©Keystone/SDA

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