The Swiss government started the practice of stockpiling coffee and other essential items such as rice and sugar after the World War 1 to deal with shortages that could arise due to a crisis like war or natural disasters.
Switzerland has been stockpiling tons and tons of raw coffee for years in preparation for the possibility of the occurrence of crises like the two World Wars. Now, however, the Swiss government has decided that coffee is not essential for the survival of humans, if and when such a catastrophe hits its people. Switzerland has announced plans to abolish the emergency stockpiling of coffee.
Many are however not happy with this decision and a lot of opposition is brewing. The main reason for the decision is the Swiss government's realization that coffee may not be the most essential of foods in times of a crisis. According to Swiss law importers, roasters and retailers of coffee and companies like Nestlé, one of the biggest companies in the world in this sector that makes instant coffee, are required to store bags of raw coffee. The government said, “Coffee has almost no calories and subsequently does not contribute, from the physiological perspective to safeguarding nutrition. The Federal Office for National Economic Supply has concluded coffee ... is not essential for life.”
According to the plan, the need for stockpiling coffee will cease from the year 2022, and companies will be free to stop diverting coffee into their warehouses for the purposes of stockpiling. A final decision on scrapping coffee stockpiles is expected in November. Besides coffee, the country also stockpiles staples such as rice, sugar, edible oils and animal feed. These will be continued according to the rules. Switzerland brought in a system of emergency reserves soon after World War I.
As is the case with wars, there are shortages of food and other essential supplies, and the outbreak of diseases and epidemics are also the norm. In order to deal with such a situation, the Swiss government started preparing for potential shortages and brought a rule to stockpile essential goods. As many as 15 companies, including Nestlé, share the responsibility of Switzerland’s mandatory stockpiling of coffee reserves. The combined amount of coffee shared among these companies is 15,300 tons.
The 15,300 tonnes of coffee is expected to last at least for around three months. The consumption of coffee by Swiss citizens is much more than that of other countries. An average Swiss consumes around 9 kg of coffee every year. This is double the amount consumed by a citizen of the United States, at 4.5kg on an average every year. In Britain, a person consumes 3.3kg of coffee per year, which makes sense since Britain is more of a tea-consumed nation rather than coffee drinkers. These figures are from the International Coffee Organization.
While the government may have made known it plans to stop stockpiling, not everyone wants to see the stockpiles disappear. The Federal Office has been asked to reconsider its recommendation by Réservesuisse, the Bern-based organization that oversees Switzerland’s food stockpiles. Of the 15 companies with mandatory coffee stockpiles, 12 wanted to continue, according to the Réservesuisse. The main reason for this is because this mandatory rule has helped buttress the supply chain.
Others are of the opinion that the health benefits of coffee such as antioxidants and vitamins have not been fully appreciated. Hence it would not be justified for the stockpiling to be stopped. Pushing their case, Réservesuisse wrote in a letter and contended that stoping stockpiling of coffee based on concerns about calories and its health value is not justified. It stated in its letter, “Stockpile operators’ concerns clearly show that the one-sided review and weighting of calories as the main criteria for a vital staple did not do justice to coffee.”
A point to note is that the financing for Switzerland coffee stockpile is done through a fee charged for every 100kg of imported beans at the rate of 3.75 Swiss. This amounts to about 2.7 million Swiss francs (about £2million and $2.6 million ) annually to compensate companies for storing beans. Losing all that money may also be a concern for the companies. A spokesperson for Nestlé declined to comment on the matter. In the event that the mandatory stockpile is eliminated, the government said it expected importers freed from the fee to pass on savings to consumers.
Meanwhile, people are losing it over this latest development of coffee being deemed not essential for life.
They are vital for my survival !!— LAFILM90028 (@lafilm90028) April 10, 2019