Allegrini 2018

“Agrifood is doing well outside the EU, but we need to work on relaunching”, said Giansanti

The president of Confagricoltura said, “Made in Italy exports grew +3.7% in the first 4 months of 2020, a positive sign in a negative context”
The president of Confagricoltura Massimiliano Giansanti

In the Coronavirus scenario, agro food is in a rather complicated situation. Yet, once again, Italian agriculture, and wine & food confirmed their skill in going against the trend. And, in the first 4 months of 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, total exports on non-EU markets have grown +3.7% over the same period in 2019, for a value of 3.35 billion euros, while wine exports took the lead, at +3.3%, and a value of 1.03 billion euros. These data are from customs, analyzed by Confagricoltura, Italy’s largest organization of agricultural enterprises. “The data can be explained very simply: Made in Italy is an extraordinary driver. Everyone, all over the world wants to eat Italian, and in the last 10 years, the value of Italian exports globally, has doubled. The fact that there has been growth in third countries even in the lockdown months is an very positive sign in the extremely negative context agriculture is experiencing”, Massimiliano Giansanti, president of Confagricoltura, explained to WineNews.
The numbers of the overall growth in exports should be examined in greater detail. For instance, in January 2020 in the USA, which is the number one market for Italy, the race for stocks of wine had a great impact on wine. In January, exports grew +24% overall, however in February, March and April they registered negative percentages, between -1.6% and -2.7%. It was a slowdown, therefore, but not a total collapse. In the meantime, other sectors – grains, vegetables, pasta and baked goods, have experienced constant and vigorous growth. The game is not over yet, however. “Coronavirus”, emphasized Giansanti, “has called into question the entire agro-food and agro-industry sector. In the past few months, consumption choices have greatly changed. People have given priority to extended shelf-life over fresh products, and Italy has excelled in this choice, too, as entire sectors from fourth range lettuce to nursery gardening, are suffering. Further, the lockdown of the on trade market has deeply affected sectors such as wine, mozzarella, and fresh milk. The wine sector, for instance, registered significant growth in the US in January 2020, due to the fear of tariffs, but then dropped immediately. Our wineries are more exposed in exports and the on trade channel, while other countries have kept significant space where they are present in large-scale distribution channels. Now we must reflect on how to re-launch the agro-food sector in Italy and mainly on foreign markets, which are key. They are, in fact, worth 45 billion euros, and 40% are non-EU; therefore, we must do everything possible to save and maintain market shares, which will be the starting point for the future.

The competition on markets will certainly be tough, since some competitor countries have held up better than others in this period. This is because the individual members of the European Union have assisted their farms differently, and we definitely needed greater European leadership. Plus, we will have to make sure that not only wine businesses will be able to return quickly to and compete on the markets”. The institutions’ role of supporting the sector will be vital, and up until now, things have not gone very well in this sense.
“Europe has been basically absent”, Giansanti stressed. “It has given 84 million euros for agriculture to date, in a historic crisis. The European Union has allowed some member states to help the sector more, but nobody has forgotten when customs were closed in Italy at the beginning of March. It is clear that as Europeans, we expect much more. And also for the CAP reform, where we expect there to be more attention towards the Mediterranean areas, while instead, it is mostly directed to the more temperate areas of Northern Europe. We have sectors, such as the wine sector which are in great difficulty, and also horticultural and fruit production, or the oil sector, which is essential for Italy and Spain. It is clear that we must focus on the sectors that have felt the crisis the most, wine first of all, where we will have to work on making sure the 100 million euros the Government has allocated for the green harvest reaches the businesses, but we will also have to remove product from the market, and find resources for distillation. Our main focus, though, will be working on promotion. We have the great CMO in a phase where everything is locked down, and we will have to speed things up in order to spend all the resources available to promote our products more and better, also on today’s new channels. Currently, we are moving toward the electronic marketplaces, on the various medias, and we must give companies a way to remodel their projects. There are other sectors in difficulty, though”, continued Giansanti, “such as floriculture, which is worth 2.5 billion euros in turnover, 90% in exports. There is the farmhouse, which is paramount to the territories of central and northern Italy, where it is also vital for food and wine. And there are also fruit and vegetables and animal breeding. So, a great vision and strategy is necessary to prepare us for “Phase 4” in September, when the challenge will really start on the markets again”.
In the meantime, one of the principal emergencies is the workforce in the fields. The issue has been on the table for weeks, the discussion led by the Italian Minister of Agricultural Policies Bellanova, who finally obtained amnesty for irregular workers, foreigners and Italians. But for specialized agricultures like Italy’s, it may not be enough. “Farmers have no time to waste, nature and the market won’t allow it. Production cycles cannot be created, and perhaps the government has not fully understood this. Agriculture”, Gianstanti concluded, “today, is a modern business activity, which uses the top technologies, and needs qualified personnel. For this reason, we are insisting on reopening the “green corridors”, to bring back from their countries the many people who have worked in our companies for years, pay taxes here in Italy and know the trade, because there are activities, and the green harvest is one of them, that cannot be improvised”.

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