In order to compare the price level of fresh produce in Switzerland and Austria, the costs of a shopping cart worth of food was analysed. This was based on the monthly requirements for different food groups for a family with two children. The evaluation for the year 2016 shows that in Switzerland, the basket was on average 93% more expensive than in Austria when filled with non-organic products and 89% more expensive when filled with organic products. All food products in Switzerland were shown to be more expensive than in Austria.
Comparing prices is difficult
It is important to bear in mind that these price comparisons should always be interpreted with caution, as the comparability of products and prices is limited. In particular, the pricing procedures in Austria and in Switzerland differ.
Border protection is expressed in higher price differences
One possible reason for the various price differences could be the various border protection regimes. For example, the difference in a dairy product such as butter, which is heavily protected by border protection, is significantly higher than for cheese, whose trade between Switzerland and the EU is fully liberalised. Mozerella, a rather generic product, with a low price difference of 19% or 29% is a good example of this.
With fruits there is also a considerable difference between the prices of local or border protected dessert apples and imported fruits such as bananas and oranges.
Higher location costs
As a general rule, location costs such as wages, rents, land and investment costs in Switzerland are significantly higher across the entire value-added chain than abroad, which is reflected in prices. Yet in the bio-sector wages are actually an important cost-driver. Accordingly, the price difference in organic fruits and vegetables, which often require more manual work than their conventionally produced counterparts, tends to be higher. Due to different cost structures, the margins in the Swiss retail trade are higher.