Sun. Jan 19th, 2020

Trump's tariffs hit Parmigiano cheese, the king of Italian cheeses


The Italian agri-food sector mobilizes to face the protectionist tariffs that President Trump imposes on his products, with losses that can reach up to one billion euros. Both Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Agriculture Minister Teresa Bellanova have committed themselves with agrifood companies to request aid from Brussels to compensate for losses in their exports. The list of damaged products the head the parmigiano reggiano and grana padano cheeses. Every year, 10 million kilos fly to the United States, considered the king of Italian cheeses, Parmigiano. A kilo of this cheese is bought by Americans today for about 36 euros per kilo; With the imposition of the tariff the price of one kilo of Regmigiano parmigiano would reach almost 55 euros. Fearing that striking rise, some American consumers have made supplies of Parmigiano Reggiano.

The consortium that regulates this production estimates that this increase would determine a sinking of 90% of the market in the United States. Specifically, the parmigiano sector estimates that the economic damage would be around 360 million euros. The grana padano would not be better off, whose damage would be about 270 million euros.

The economic disaster of the commercial war with the United States would be in chain. Italian milk producers would be very affected. 40% of its production is used to create parmigiano and grana padano.

National Heritage

These possible serious consequences raise enormous concern not only in the sector; Around the Reggiano parmiggiano there is a rich history with a tradition that fascinates thousands of Italians, and not only in the five provinces where this famous cheese is produced: Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna and Mantua.

All the world knows this semigrase cheese, produced with cow's milk (it serves an average of 15 liters of milk to produce a kilo of parmigiano), a cheese of delicate flavor that serves to accompany all kinds of recipes and to eat it as an appetizer. Parmigiano's production employs about 50,000 workers and its economy is worth more than 1,500 million euros (the kilo of parmigiano with a maturity of 24/30 months is sold at about 32-34 euros). The weight of each wheel varies between 30 and 40 kilos, 40 being the most normal.

The Reggiano parmigiano is considered a true national heritage, which is reflected in the history and value that is given to this product, the king of Italian cheeses, which is literally granted a golden status, as if it were a good refuge, similar to what is gold, diamonds, works of art or jewelry. Indeed, the Reggiano parmigiano is preserved and matured in bank deposits, which store it as if it were gold bullion. This is a real treasure: the wheels or forms of the parmigiano serve as collateral for the loans granted to local producers. Up to half a million forms of Parmesan are preserved in two gigantic armored warehouses of the Credit Emiliano bank, one of the main Italian private banking groups, with a centuries-old tradition of service to farmers and farmers in the area.

Creative finance: A bank guarantee

Almost as if it were a ticket or a check, each cheese is marked with a number, which identifies the producer and the year of production. The total value of stored cheese is around 150 million euros, a heritage that producers leave the bank as collateral of loans received, with the authorization and guarantee of the Italian Central Bank (Bankitalia). This formula was born almost 70 years ago, although it is believed that it began to be used in the twelfth century and especially in times of the Medici dynasty, whose initial power emerged precisely from the bank and reached its maximum splendor in the Renaissance. Historically, the birthplace of the Parmigiano was, in the twelfth century, in the great monasteries, two Cistercians and two Benedictines, present between Parma and Reggio Emilia.

In current practice, the bank takes over the maturation phase of Parmesan (from 24 to 30 months, although forms can be found from 80 to 120 months) and in return guarantees companies or cheese shops (caseifici) a loan, which usually andremove 80 percent of the value of the cheeses in deposit and for a duration that is usually two years. With this money, the producers obtain the necessary liquidity to continue with their activity. It is a happy marriage between finance and the business world of producers. The Emiliano Credit deposits are the largest, but in other neighboring areas there are also establishments to store and ripen Parmesan and grana Padano cheese, granting credits to their producers.

The most imitated cheese

The Parmigiano Reggiano is a product with so much history and tradition, so rich and famous, that it has become one of the most imitated cheeses in the world, which seriously damages the authentic cheese with designation of origin, that is, only the which occurs in the 5 cited provinces of northern Italy. The consortium monitors to avoid fraud in a considered product.

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