Exports of Swiss cheeses hit record highs in 2020, as Covid-induced lockdowns spurred increased interest in home cooking, the Switzerland Cheese Marketing organisation said Tuesday.

"Despite the difficult economic conditions linked to the coronavirus pandemic, the export levels seen in 2019, a record year, were once again surpassed," the organisation said in a statement.

Last year, Switzerland exported over 77,100 tonnes of cheese, up 1.6 percent from 2019.

Income from the exports swelled nearly four percent to almost 700 million Swiss francs ($770 million, 640 million euros), Switzerland Cheese Marketing said.

Exports of ready-to-use fondue cheese saw the biggest jump of 4.9 percent.

Last year, Switzerland exported more than 77,100 tonnes of cheese
Last year, Switzerland exported more than 77,100 tonnes of cheese AFP / CHARLY TRIBALLEAU

"The closure of restaurants, people working from home, but also the restrictions on leisure activities have forced us to spend more time at home," the organisation's spokeswoman Christa Wettstein told AFP in an email.

Cheese consumption had been bolstered by the fact that time spent around the table had become one of few occasions where "sharing and conviviality" remained possible, she pointed out.

Drinks and appetisers have also helped many get through the long months of pandemic restrictions, with cheese platters often an essential ingredient, she said.

At the same time, Wettstein said the restrictions had increased the need for and interest in home cooking, "explaining the heightened use of products that simplify cooking, like grated cheese".

Imports of cheese to Switzerland also rose last year, swelling 11.7 percent to nearly 71,700 tonnes, according to figures from Swiss Cheese Marketing.