Plans by German discount food stores Aldi and Lidl are already forcing food prices down in Switzerland, according to the German Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper.

Aldi won’t open its first store in Switzerland for at least a year, the paper said, but a network of between 120 and 160 outlets is planned. Lidl is already buying sites. Swiss supermarkets have already started to increase their offering of low priced products to counter the German threat.

“Is Switzerland, which has not yet known any hard discounters, poor enough for Aldi,” the paper wondered in its Sunday edition. It pointed out that although Switzerland is a wealthy country the distribution of income is less even than in Germany, while food costs are 40% above the German level with meat and milk products almost twice as expensive.

The reason for the high prices is the high level of protection given to agriculture. As the paper said, it means that Switzerland’s borders are surrounded by big German and French supermarkets.

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Discounters like Aldi will not be able to bring in cheaper food from the European Union, it said. But the World Trade Organisation wants to see a more liberalised Swiss agriculture regime. When that comes Aldi can really start, the paper said.