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The wine districts drive Italian agri-food exports in the first quarter of 2022

Intesa Sanpaolo monitor: exports of wine districts at 1.4 billion euros (+ 17.7%). Langhe, Roero and Monferrato at the top
The wine districts

Despite the complicated context, between rising energy costs, difficulties in finding raw materials, and logistics problems, exports of the Italian agro-food districts continued to grow at a sustained pace also in the first 3 months of 2022. After the all-time peak of 2021 (22.6 billion euros, + 9.2% on 2020), the first quarter of the year - as reported by the numbers of the monitor of the Italian agri-food districts signed by Intesa Sanpaolo - marked a further leap forward, with over 6 billion euros in exports, 811 million more over the same period of 2021 (+ 15.4%) and over 1.2 billion more over the same period of 2019.
The evolution of the districts reflects that of Italian agri-food exports as a whole, which last year had already exceeded 50 billion euros and which marks, in the first quarter of 2022, a growth of 18.9%. The result is partly affected by inflationary dynamics: the index of prices practiced on the foreign market of Italian food products in fact increased by 8.5%, with peaks of 18.5% for oils and fats and 13.9% for meat, while for beverages the increase was lower (+ 2.7%).
At the dawn of the new geopolitical crisis, all the supply chains had left the pandemic behind, even those that had remained further behind because they were linked to the world of catering, as the fish market. These important results must now deal with new tensions caused by a set of economic, geopolitical, and speculative factors, also due to the high dependence of the Italian agro-food sector on many critical supplies from abroad.
The wine districts led growth in this first quarter of 2022, exceeding 1.4 billion euros in exports in current values, a result never achieved so far in a quarter (+ 17.7% over the same period of 2021). The most important district in terms of exported values, with almost 447 million euros in the first three months of 2022, is that of the Wines of Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato, which recorded an improvement of 11.4% over the first quarter of 2021. Especially the English market is recovering, after the drops in 2020 (-8.6%) and 2021 (-10.3%), it grew by 13.6 million euros (+ 47.5%). The Veronese wine district also recorded an excellent performance (+ 19.4%), which closed the quarter with 284 million in exports, with growth in all destinations, in particular, Germany (+ 2%), the leading export market, but also the United Kingdom (+ 33.8%), the United States (+ 44.7%) and Canada (+ 29.9%). The greatest contribution to the growth of the wine districts, however, comes from Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene, with an increase of over 49 million in the quarter (+ 31.1%): United States, United Kingdom, and Germany, the three destination markets that contain over the half of the district’s exports grow in double digits (respectively + 12.9%, + 50.9% and + 27.2%), even if the British market is still down by almost 30% on the first quarter of 2019.
Excellent performance on foreign markets also for the pasta and sweets districts, all with double-digit growth: it should be noted, however, that the price index on foreign markets for the production of bakery and starchy products grew by 12.1 %, under the pressure of inflationary dynamics. The sector was affected by the increases in energy prices and the costs of raw materials, in particular cereals, often quoted in dollars, a currency that continued to strengthen against the euro throughout the first quarter of the year. The sweets of Alba and Cuneo stand out particularly, with an increase of 64.6 million compared to the first quarter of 2021 (+ 19.8%) and the pasta and food sectors of Parma (+ 28.7%), of the food industry in Naples (+ 33.3%) and oil and pasta in the Bari area (+ 26.9%).
The supply chain of agricultural districts, after the strong growth of 2021 (+ 9.4%), slows down in the first quarter of 2022, with a trend growth of 7%, a result that hides different dynamics in the thirteen districts that it consists of. The greatest contribution to growth is due to the fruit and vegetable district of Barese, which went from 53 million euros in 2021 (45 in the first quarter of 2019) to 155 million euros in the same period of 2022. The increase is explained almost entirely by the countries of North Africa, particularly Algeria and Tunisia, markets strongly dependent on Russian-Ukrainian supplies, in particular cereals. Double-digit growth also for the agricultural district of the Piana del Sele (+ 12.9% trend) and for the two districts of the horticultural sector of Pistoia (+ 13%) and the horticultural sector of Western Liguria (+ 16%). On the other hand, fruit and vegetables from Romagna (-7.5% trend), apples from Trentino (-30.9%) and Piedmont’s hazelnuts and fruit (-24.4%) recorded a negative sign, with the last one mentioned, as also the only district in the supply chain to still position itself below the levels of the first quarter of 2019. Already from March, the national water situation was beginning to show signs of criticality, particularly in the north of the country.
Widespread growth for the preserves districts: the preserves of Nocera recorded a + 4.6% trend; double-digit increases for jams and fruit juices from Trentino-Alto Adige (+ 35.9%) and for the Neapolitan food preserves (+ 37.6%) and Parma food sectors (+ 18.6%). The only exception is the Foggiano fruit and vegetable preserves sector which, after the strong contraction of 2021 (-46.1%), continues to lose ground in foreign markets (-11.2% trend), especially towards Germany (- 33.3%) and France (-21.5%). The high costs and the drought emergency in the countries of the Mediterranean area are having negative implications on the 2022 industrial tomato campaign, in which the Foggia district is specialized: Amitom - Association Méditerranéenne Internationale de la Tomate predicts a production loss of 10% in the regions of the Center-South of Italy.
Lights and shadows between the meat and cold cuts districts: the escalation of energy costs and raw materials has hit a supply chain already tested by the increases caused by swine fever in China and also influenced by some cases found in Italy. The strong growth in cold cuts in the Modenese area (+ 21.8% tendentially, corresponding to an increase of 33 million), is contrasted by the decline in meat in Verona (-18.9%, 26.8 million less), a district that in this way it is positioned below 3% compared to the levels of 2019. The trend of the German market weighs above all, which absorbs a third of exports from the Veronese district and falls by 37% on a trend basis (20.6 million less). Sales boom on foreign markets for Reggio Emilia cold cuts, which, with 12.8 million more, doubles compared to the first quarter of 2021 (+ 109.5%) and compared to the pre-pandemic (+ 100.7%), with widespread growth towards all the main commercial destinations, particularly the Netherlands, Germany and the United States.
Among the dairy districts, there are fluctuating performances. The first district for exported values, the dairy of south-eastern Lombardy, after the excellent result of 2021 (+ 15.4%), closes the first quarter of 2022 with a growth of 29.4%, over 61 million more over the same period of 2021. The boom in sales to France (+ 30.2%), the Netherlands (+ 45.2%), and above all the United States, which recorded export values almost tripled compared to the first quarter of 2021. Similar dynamics also for the Mozzarella di Bufala from Campania (+ 25.3% in 2021; + 21.4% in the first three months of 2022) and for the Parma dairy (respectively + 21% and + 14.8%). On the other hand, a setback for the Reggio Emilia dairy, which had already closed 2021 with a slight decrease (-3%) and in the first quarter of 2021 a decline of 21.6%; sales on the British market, the first commercial outlet, fell in particular (-45.5%). Sardinian dairy products also recorded a physiological regression (-8.5%), after the strong growth of 2021 (+ 26%), explained almost entirely by the decline in the US market (-12.9%).
Strong acceleration for the oil districts, which, however, is accompanied by an increase in prices on foreign markets for the national oil and fat industry of 18.5% tendential. The Tuscan oil district closed with a + 25.9% trend, which translates into an increase of over 40 million. The results of Umbrian oil (+ 24.9% trend) and the oil and pasta sector of Bari (+ 51.9%) were also very positive. According to the data of the Consiglio Oleicolo Internazionale (Coi), olive oil for three consecutive campaigns has recorded a world consumption trend that has been higher than the production volume (which has never happened in the past): consumers already with the pandemic have directed their purchases towards higher quality products, causing an increase in the trade value on a global scale.
The two rice districts move in unison: Vercelli rice, which had closed 2021 with a -4.5%, recorded a growth of 24.1%; the same trend for Rice of Pavia (-4% and + 28.4%). According to the National Rice Authority, the net production of milled rice in 2021 is estimated to decrease by about 2.3% compared to 2020, but is supported by an increase in producer prices in foreign markets that it recorded for rice and flour. annual growth of 10.7%.
In the coffee supply chain, all the districts continue the positive trend of 2021. The Turin coffee, confectionery, and chocolate district (+ 25.5%) and the Trieste coffee district (+ 30.5%) stand out in particular. The Polesine and Veneziano fishing district also recovered to pre-pandemic levels (+ 21.3%; + 1.8% compared to 2019). The fishing sector is among the most energy-hungry in the agro-food sector, and for the Veneto district, there are also concerns about the effects of climate change that are reducing water levels and increasing salinity levels and the presence of algae.
Overall, exports from agri-food districts to all the main destination markets are growing. Increasing the flows to Germany, the leading foreign market (+ 3.4%), thanks above all to the contribution of the pasta, sweets, and oil supply chains; flows to the United States increased as well (+ 14.3%), where the strong dollar supported the growth of the wine, oil and pasta and desserts districts; good results also towards France (+ 16.8%), where the success of the pasta and sweets chain is joined by that of the dairy sector. Sales on the British market are also starting to grow again (+ 21.9%; after a drop of 9.6% in 2021), especially of wines, pasta, and preserves. Sales to emerging economies continue to increase, + 19.6% in the first quarter of 2022 compared to + 14.3% for advanced economies.
“Agri-food exports in the first quarter grew at a rapid pace despite the difficulties linked to both the geopolitical scenario and environmental factors, first and foremost the long period of drought. A confirmation of the value that this sector represents for our country, a sector to which Intesa Sanpaolo pays particular attention with extraordinary measures such as the 100 million ceiling for companies in areas affected by drought and support for liquidity needs linked to the increase of energy and raw material costs. Structural measures are added such as the dedicated 3 billion euro ceiling, in agreement with Coldiretti, which has among its objectives the support of PNRR initiatives and a great commitment to the promotion of green and digital investments”, underlined Massimiliano Cattozzi, Head of Intesa Sanpaolo Agribusiness Department. “Finally, let’s not forget the importance that districts and supply chains have in guaranteeing the quality of our products and the territorial sustainability of the value chains. From this point of view, Intesa Sanpaolo has already initiated 170 supply chain contracts involving over 6,500 suppliers, a total turnover of over 22 billion euros, and over 22,000 employees of the chain manager”.

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