Allegrini 2018

Conte: “Agriculture is one of the few lights we see in the darkness”. 100 years of Confagricoltura

President Giansanti, head of the most important Italian agricultural organization: from the pandemic also opportunities, but we need a strategic plan

Italian agriculture is robust, and although it is going through great difficulties brought on by the Pandemic, it must seize the opportunities as they come up, because it is one of the few “lights we get a glimpse of, in the darkness”, said the Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte. The Minister of Agriculture, Teresa Bellanova, added, “And, for its future made of keywords such as, “resilience, re-launch and dialogue”. Confagricoltura, the most important organization of Italian agricultural enterprises celebrated its 100 years yesterday in Rome, at Palazzo Colonna, one of the most majestic Roman noble palaces. Sergio Mattarella, the President of the Republic and the Minister of Economic Development, Stefano Patuanelli, also participated. The celebration honored the past, while it was looking at a very uncertain future, totally aware, though, that agriculture is fundamental for Italy. It must, therefore, be at the center not only of the measures to support the economy in times of Covid-19, like the Recovery Fund, for instance, but also at the center of the country’s political agenda.
“During the emergency we did our part, following up on the requests addressed to us to continue supplying the market, without interruptions. The facts”, said the president of Confagricoltura, Massimiliano Giansanti, “have shown that Italy can rely on a solid agro-food system of which our companies are an essential component. Over 520.000 workers collaborate with our farms, which translates to more than 41 million working days”. We have to look at tomorrow, however. “It is time to stimulate” said Giansanti, “competitiveness and production, and the ambition to go far beyond recovering the situation that existed before the Pandemic health emergency. Even the European Union, after some initial hesitation, gave an adequate response to the needs the Pandemic required, mobilizing unprecedented financial resources. It is now up to us to use those enormous resources to the maximum efficacy, without delay, to remedy the basic shortcomings that have held back economic growth for over a decade”. “Thank you Confagricoltura and the agro-food chain”, said Conte, “for what you have done for the citizens throughout all these difficult months. Thanks to your commitment and your sacrifices, there has never been a lack of food. The government is working on an economic plan to help agricultural supply chains. Our resilience plan is the driving force of development, especially in the South, to reduce the technological gap and to make contributions to internal areas that are paying for the repercussions of this phase, more than others. In this darkness, there is a glimpse of light, and one of the lights we see is Italian agriculture. We are seeing growth that has gone against the trend. And, it has many firsts to be proud about”.
However, records are not unbreakable, and it would be unforgivable to not seize the opportunities that, paradoxically, the Pandemic has made available. Starting from production growth, which has been stagnating for over a decade, through re-launching public investments, “to give citizens and businesses modern infrastructures, spread digitalization, starting in the public administration, and respond to the urgent challenges posed by climate change. We have the opportunity and the financial resources”, said the president of Confagricoltura, Giansanti, “to carry out reconstruction work on a similar scale of that which followed the end of the Second World War. But now more than ever, it is urgent to launch and put in place a strategic plan to further develop the Italian agro-food system, to increase production and employment. And, a more integrated relationship amongst all parts of the supply chain as well, also in terms of better distribution of added value”, he underlined. President Giansanti of course focused on the very important issue of food sovereignty, highlighting how, “the new frontier cannot be laboratory food. Innovation and technologies first of all, yes, but inherent to agricultural processes. We must increase the self-supply rate to guarantee that Italian and European consumers, under any circumstance, will have the products necessary for a healthy diet and at quality levels that do not fear competition on a worldwide scale”.
The Minister, Teresa Bellanova, also commented on the importance of agro-food and everything included therein that defines “The Supply Chain”. She said, “Our country, even if it is sometimes forgotten and neglected, continues to be a country that has a very resilient agricultural sector. We must be able to recognize and re-confirm that it is an extremely important link in the construction policies of the future. This is the goal that has characterized the contents of the actions we have carried out up until now. This is the reason that today, standing in front of this qualified and extraordinary audience, the key words are: resilience, re-launch and dialogue. Dialogue, together with Confagricoltura, and with all the associations in the sector, as well as the entire institutional chain, has never failed. Today, it is evident that the focus is on the “supply chain of life”, which in the past months has never stopped, neither in Italy nor in Europe. The three macro-objectives that we indicated in the Strategy for the Sector are also related to this same topic; that is, competition in the food system, production from renewable sources and emission reductions; fighting the consequences of climate change, and ecological instability. We must add another macro-objective to these three, strengthening the resilience and vitality of rural areas”. Bellanova also pointed out that “the opportunity the Recovery Fund has offered must not be wasted”, and even “the most fragile part of our country is able to and must offer their citizens new life and work opportunities”. Above all, the Minister indicated that the key word for her is “regeneration”, implied as “regeneration of the country’s agriculture and food system by strengthening businesses and supply chains; the modernization of production systems, mechanizing the acceleration of the country’s green and digital transition, and the reconversion, enhancement, improvement of production systems and their sustainability”.
In other words, Italian agriculture is at a turning point that it must follow, with the State’s support, of course. But it will also need the contributions of the most far-sighted farmers and professionals from other sectors who, during the course of their lives have chosen to change profession, and devote themselves to the agriculture world. These are the paths that Confagricoltura has decided to enhance, narrating three different stories on the stage of its 100-year celebration. One of these case histories is Luca Travaglini, who received a degree in Economics from Bocconi University, in Milan. Then, because of a bad health experience, he founded Planet Farms, a company that manages "indoor" cultivation, following a method that allows one to produce anywhere, using 97% less water and guaranteeing a fresh product 365 days a year, regardless of the external environmental factor, and absolutely with no residues or pesticides. Another story is that of Arianne Lotti, born and raised in New York, who chose to return to Italy to manage the family business, Tenuta San Carlo, in the Grosseto area. Today, it is a Tuscan company that produces organic rice, covering 480 hectares of land, half of the Maremma Regional Park, cultivatable land, a small Maremma Cow farm, agri-tourism structures and protected areas of pine forest and marsh. The third case history deals with wine. Francesco Cambria, today at the helm of Cottanera, together with his sister, Mariangela, was a corporate and criminal lawyer, who changed his life ten years ago, and returned to Sicily, from Milan. He put aside his toga and started from scratch to learn everything about viniculture. He reconnected the thread with his past, on Etna, where his father was one of the first to believe in the viniculture potential of one of the most important territories today in Sicily and Italy. He removed hazelnut and olive groves and started planting vineyards. Cambria started a new adventure at the helm of the family business, together with his uncle and brothers, using viniculture techniques to protect the very special volcanic terrain and the unique volcanic rock formations. At the same time, the company focused on innovation, working towards vanguard viniculture. In 2019, Francesco Cambria received the special award, “Winemaker of the Year”, from the most important wine guide in Italy, “Gambero Rosso”. “And, today I can say, with almost absolute certainty, that it was not madness to leave the law profession and start up” he told WineNews, “this new life. Today, after ten years in this activity, I am proud and happy, and I would not change my choice”.

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