Monday, December 15, 2008

Parmigiano Reggiano Bailout

Parmigiano Reggiano, Italy's King of Cheese, is in trouble. Robust in flavor and crumbly, it is a classic of Italy's artisan food traditions, made by hand by 430 craft producers around the city of Parma. But , press reports almost a third of producers say they face bankruptcy. Italy's Minister of Agriculture, Luca Zaia is promising to buy 100,000 Parmigiano Reggiano cheeses, and also 100,000 of its less costly competitor, Grana Padano.

Is this Italy's big cheese bailout?

The government will munch up 3 per cent of production at an estimated cost of €50m (£44.7m) and distributing it to the needy. Each 35kg wheel of Parmigiano costs between €8 and €8.50 to make, but the wholesale price has declined for the past four years even as the cost of milk and energy has soared.

"We just need a bit of time to reorganize ourselves," said Giorgio Apostoli of Coldiretti, Italy's agriculture lobby. "This is a historic product with an ancient tradition. There ought to be policies to safeguard those who produce it."

But Professor Giuliano Noci, of the Milan Polytechnic, said a better solution would be for the government to "launch a sustained marketing campaign in the emerging markets such as Brazil, Russia and India, to educate consumers to appreciate the quality" of the cheese.

Click for more video about Parma Italy.

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