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ESPRESSO COFFEE IS NOT STOPPED BY THE CRISIS
Coffee producers have long made a very important contribution to Italian food exports. After many years of double-digit export growth, 2009 has still witnessed considerable stability in this market, with an increase of 0.26% in the year’s results. In the words of Luca Solari, the slowdown is “principally due to the super-Euro and the global crisis”. Solari is President of the Italian Coffee Committee which brings together coffee-roasters under the leadership of AIIPA, the Italian Association of Food Product Industries. Other members include AIT, the Italian Coffee-roasters Association; the Green Coffee Federation, which unites the importers of raw coffee, an essential part of the production chain; the coffee association of the Port of Genoa and the coffee association of the Port of Trieste. So, despite the slackening in the market, the figures attest to the good health of a sector which has not paid for the economic crisis in terms of huge losses.
The world of Italian coffee-roasters is composed of five large companies, 20 medium-sized concerns and about 700 small to medium firms. Their flagship business, steering them through the economic crisis, has been the market for espresso. As Solari explained, this is “a product which, some years ago, was regarded with diffidence by foreign consumers, in view of the relatively high cost in relation to quantity, while cappuccino had a better market”. However, the quality of Italian espresso, which has continued to be refined over the years, has determined the enormous success of this product. “A success facilitated”, added the President of the Italian Coffee Committee, “by the parallel achievements of Italian coffee machines for preparation, both those used in bars and automatic dispensers; not to mention home coffee-makers”. Thus the espresso has made its mark in many overseas markets, also in virtue of its capacity to embody not simply a drink but also a real object of ritual. As Solari pointed out, “From this point of view, the opening up of the Asian markets has been an important factor, for there the espresso has been elevated to a status symbol, embedding it in the customs of daily life”.
The Middle and Far East represent the emerging markets for the export of Italian coffee, while the classic outlets remain the Euro zone, the United States and Canada. The products of Italian roasters enjoy an important reputation all over the world and are also the object of many attempts at imitation. For this reason, the associations representing the sector, with the Italian Coffee Committee at their head, are working hard to defend the identity of their national product, putting pressure on Italian and European Community institutions to find solutions which safeguard the specificity of the product: that is to say, all coffee which, after import, is roasted, blended and put on sale in Italy.
In addition, the Italian Coffee Committee is fighting to have the ports of Genoa and Savona recognized as “delivery points” by the Arabica coffee exchange in New York. If this happens, it would add even further prestige to the ever more important role that Italy is assuming in the world coffee market, not just in terms of export but also as an importer of raw materials.