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FROM THE VALLEYS OF NORTH TO TABLES THROUGHOUT THE WORLD: THE SUCCESS STORY OF GRANA PADANO PRODUCERS
The quality food producers of Italy are not worried about the economic crisis. You only need to visit the green valleys of the north, the homeland of Grana Padano production, to realise that “recession” is not a word in current parlance. This iconic cheese remains one of the best-selling PDO products worldwide. The area of its production straddles four of the most developed regions of Italy and the industry maintains its dedication to the traditional processes which have long made it synonymous with quality, while also demonstrating a great capacity for innovation over the years. Therefore, production of PDO Grana Padano remains a fixed point in the national economy, and has come to represent the excellence of Italian food products throughout the world.
This means that the 7.5% increase in exports registered by producers in the sector during 2012, a peak year of economic uncertainty, was greeted by the Grana Padano Consortium with enormous interest. The export results achieved by Italian PDO producers have little in common with a general picture of falling profits and negative economic forecasts. The figures released by the Grana Padano Protection Consortium show that a total of 1.4 million wheels were destined for export: about 30% of the sector’s entire production. This record was achieved on the back of production figures which managed to achieve yet another annual high: during 2012 a total of 4.7 million wheels were released on the market.
The business of producing Grana Padano has always existed in parallel with that of milk production, and in this respect exports have once more made the difference. Again, the Consortium has estimated that some 2.4 million tons of milk were used in 2012, representing 22% of entire national production. Therefore, both Grana Padano production and its satellite industry are achieving double-digit percentage increases: the result of a focus on quality which remains the cornerstone of the entire production process. Returning to exports, the figures just released provide an accurate picture of the volume of foreign business achieved by producers of Grana Padano, and it is no accident that they have been pushing the Consortium to extend its commercial networks abroad. It should also be added that, even in 2012, consumption on the Italian market remained stable.
Ultimately, although domestic production continues to be closely monitored by the producers, the main focus is now shifting abroad, where there is a growing interest in the product. The search is on for potential markets, but unfortunately there are also places where counterfeiting is a significant issue. Due to its great universal appeal, Grana Padano has become one of the most widely imitated food products, and so subject to instances of dumping. The increase in this problem has encouraged the Consortium’s representatives to run for cover. As Stefano Berni, Director General of the Grana Padano Consortium, explained: “The problem of counterfeiting abroad, but also in Italy, remains the most serious issue to be resolved, not only for the PDO producers but also for consumers: who should be free to choose but also have the right to be properly informed. This is not possible nowadays because similar cheeses are still employing the system of “dumb labelling”, which does not indicate the origin of the copied product”. It is this declaration of origin that can be regarded as the best form of defence for a unique Italian product dependent on its quality and still able to make a huge global impact