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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Friday, 10 September 2010 17:14

Current Crisis Hobbles Italian Agriculture

The current crisis, long in developing, has been a heavy blow to the Italian producers and it is not their fault  that they did not foresee in advance what even Nobel prize winning economists were unable to predict, writes Angelo Gaja,  rueing that the firms which offer phoney agricultural products with a semblance of being Italian but which are not of true Italian origin  have benefited the most while also offering helpful suggestions to change the situation.

Angelo Gaja with daughter Rossana outside the Serralunga facility under renovation

Consumers, faced with declining purchasing power, have also reduced their expectations and expenditures as well, preferring what it is “adequately good” to the excellent. Accordingly, the typical Italian products which have suffered the most have been those in the upper-middle price range, thus benefited the firms selling products of non-true Italian origin, who have gained the market share in Italy and abroad.

What should be done

There is no lack of suggestions.  For example, let us look at the following factors,

- Higher quality:  but for wine, olive oil, Parmesan cheese … quality has never been better.

- BETTER VALUE:  but by now even two euro a bottle wine is well made.

- FARMERS MARKETS: a palliative, but one which encourages cultivators to reckon with the market, to think of themselves as entrepreneurs as well, and gives consumers a better idea of the seasonal nature of agricultural production.

- SHORTENING THE DISTRIBUTION CHAIN: but first producers need to get together to organize and unify what they have to offer.

- MORE MARKETING: too many producers already boast that they indulge in no marketing, they are mistrustful of the word itself which for them, suggest s merely some sort of ploy to increase sales.

- NO OGM: but current bans need to be overcome. It would be better if producers were more virtuous and consumers learned to recognize and reward certain products through clear and honest labelling practices.

- INCREASE DEMAND FOR THE PRODUCTS: in Italy the producers themselves are taking care of the question, public funds should be allocated for promotion on foreign markets.

- MAKE EXPORTING AN UTTER PRIORITY: absolutely, and of decisive importance for the growth of the agricultural sector.

- PROTECT ITALIAN NAMES AND BRANDS on foreign markets, combat imitation and falsification; more can and must be done. 

If the crisis does not ease, any and all remedies will be insufficiently effective. But what remains is the chronic absence in foreign markets of supermarket chains capable of highlighting the excellence of Italian agriculture and its exceptional products. Accordingly, the opening - which has taken place as I write - of EATALY in New York, a place where Italy’s finest produce will find a showcase capable of showing its true worth, with an obvious return in terms of image and of increased consumer demand, is of great significance.
A project for the future

At the present time, the producers who are running the greatest risk are those of artisan level, and they are the overwhelming majority of the small and individual firms in Italy. Programs to aid and assist their work are a priority. For over a year there has been a serious and impassioned debate over the meaning of the words Made in Italy, which theoretically means one thing but often concretely means the exact opposite. And contains a fundamental contradiction which is impossible to eliminate, as many firms which have transferred production abroad have greatly contributed to the success of Made in Italy in foreign markets.

For artisan producers it might be more useful to start thinking about a new concept- a new logo, legally recognized but not obligatory, which could be applied to products TOTALLY made in Italy, a logo designed by one of Italy’s greatest design talents which could be used – by individual choice – alongside Made in Italy.

A symbol of this sort would be based on the assumption, on the part of a producer, of a solemn commitment (for which he would have to take the entire responsibility, legal as well), to use solely Italian raw materials in every phase of the elaboration of the finished product. The program would be supported by a promotional campaign designed to inform consumers about the exact significance and importance of the logo. The program would also need to be supported by the professional groups in the sector and those of the stores and shops which sell Italian food and produce: it is in everyone’s interest to protect work authentically carried out in Italy.

Angelo Gaja
September 10, 2010  

Angelo Gaja needs no introduction. Aptly referred to as the Prince of Piemonte, he brought Barbaresco on the world wine map. Besides Barbaresco, he also owns wineries in Montalcino and Maremma making ultra premium wines. He is one of the most recognised and awarded wine celebrities of the world and a great orator. He is totally passionate and supportive about the genuinely Made in Italy products. Last year when he spoke at the first World Wine Symposium in Lake Como, he cast a spell on the audience, with the interpreters gasping for breath well after he had left the ‘stage’. EATALY is an Italian specialty store promoting mostly food products of local artisans; the first store was opened in Torino (Turin) about 3 years ago. The concept has been replicated with a similar store opening recently in New York.- Editor


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