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MILK AND CHEESE BEAT THE CRISIS BY AIMING FOR QUALITY
In a global context marked by crisis, with European farmers affected by a sky-high increase in production costs, the dairy sector, which is a key industry in Italian food production (with a turnover of 14.5 billion Euros and 1.4 billion Euros of exports), is managing by counting on a greater opportunity to value the absolute quality of made in Italy. Their ability to promote Italian excellence can be seen in one aspect in particular: in 2008, for the first time, the currency balance relating to cheeses broke even. 237 thousand tonnes were exported, against 413 metric tonnes of imported products. Nevertheless, revenue for export volumes reached a quota of 1.4 billion, the same figure for imports.
The growth in turnover and export value, combined with maintained consumption levels, demonstrates the anti-cyclicity of the dairy sector. According to a survey made by the Astra Ricerche company on behalf of Assolatte (the trade association that includes the companies that account for 90% of the total turnover), the recession, which has driven one third of Italians to reduce their food consumption, has not in any way diminished the number of those who buy or consume cheeses (97%), milk (91%, the best result of the decade) or yoghurt (77%).
“But we haven't managed to avoid this difficult international situation,” pointed out Assolatte’s president, Giuseppe Ambrosi, during their most recent annual report last June. “In 2008, production volume fell by 1.8% and, for the first time in 10 years, export quantities decreased (-5%), even if the trend remains positive; in fact between 1995 and 2008, volume has more than doubled. Thanks to this industry, the sector has held firm, turning out to be one of the most powerful made in Italy driving forces, with 2,100 businesses, and a quarter of Italian cheese production being sold outside Italy".
2009 is turning out to be a particularly difficult year for the division, faced with a situation that, at a European level, “has drastically deteriorated”, as Mariann Fischer Boel, the Danish European Commissioner for agriculture declared at the end of July. She emphasised how prices had dropped from 30-40 cents per litre to 20-21 cents or less. And yet, in Italy, the critical period seems to be behind us, with some signs of recovery already emerging in June. “In the first half of 2009,” Ambrosi emphasised, “the trade balance for the Italian cheese sector was positive for the first time in its history, given that it recorded a positive balance of 11,791 million euro. This is an extraordinarily significant result and a historical turning point for the Italian dairy sector, but also further confirmation of what is now a 20-year trend, in which Italian cheeses are increasingly appreciated and valued all over the world”.