Covid-19 Lockdown in Italy Brings Critical Promotion Season to a Standstill

At a time when Italy's agriculture sector was already reeling, the coronavirus lockdown has wiped out major spring events and promotional activities.

Mar 11, 2020 10:23 AM EDT
By Paolo DeAndreis

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With Italy in lock­down to halt the spread­ing of the coro­n­avirus Covid-19, the impact of the new con­tain­ment mea­sures on the eco­nomic and social life of work­ers of nearly every sec­tor here is enor­mous.

We will still need months to recover and go back to nor­mal life. And that is the best sce­nario.- Alessandro Notario, event man­ager

Under huge strain even before the first out­break of the virus, Italian agri­cul­ture is now suf­fer­ing major set­backs both in pro­duc­tion and in the many rel­e­vant pro­mo­tional events sched­uled in March and April for its most cel­e­brated prod­ucts, such as olive oil and wine.

Those events, all of them, were either resched­uled or can­celed alto­gether. The quar­an­tine imposed by Rome is set to last until April 3rd, but the gov­ern­ment has already warned its cit­i­zens that it could last longer.

The worst thing is that should the quar­an­tine really be lifted in April, we will still need months to recover and go back to nor­mal life. And that is the best sce­nario,” Alessandro Notario, a man­ager of agri­cul­tural events told Olive Oil Times.

At the begin­ning of March, Rome would have hosted an event focus­ing on olive oil that many pro­duc­ers and mar­keters had been wait­ing for. The long-planned Pop-Olio was meant to serve as a pro­mo­tional and cul­tural hap­pen­ing to reaf­firm the impor­tance of olive oil as a cen­tral com­po­nent of the Mediterranean way of life.

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Organizers said it was to be the first fair of its kind, with tast­ing chal­lenges, well-known inter­na­tional guests, pro­duc­tion work­shops and more.

Then Covid-19 hap­pened and changed every­thing. They could­n’t resched­ule due to the many fac­tors involved, even if the end of the out­break were in sight, which it isn’t. It will not be easy to find a new date for such a com­plex and ambi­tious fair,” Notario noted.

The quar­an­tine has wiped out a crit­i­cal sea­son usu­ally ded­i­cated to mar­ket­ing and pro­mo­tional activ­i­ties nec­es­sary to move the year’s olive oil sup­ply.

National com­pe­ti­tions where Italian pro­duc­ers com­pete to help dif­fer­en­ti­ate their brand in the mar­ket­place are in limbo.

One pro­ducer who had reg­is­tered his brand in the 2020 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition said he was unable to send his sam­ples to be judged since there was no one in their office to ship them. (NYIOOC orga­niz­ers said the vast major­ity of Italian entrants had dis­patched their sam­ples before the lock­down and the bal­ance could still make the May 1st dead­line.)

An event in Florence, Maestrod’Olio, was meant to focus on extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­tion and the sig­nif­i­cance of tra­di­tional organic olive oil for Italian cul­ture. It was to be a three-day fair start­ing March 14th. After it was announced that a lock­down would be imposed on all 60 mil­lion Italians, the orga­niz­ers announced the event would be resched­uled for some time in 2021.

Nobody knows when we will be out of it and it is cer­tainly advis­able to post­pone any event for sev­eral months, even to next year,” said Notario. Losses can prove to be huge for pro­duc­ers and pro­mot­ers alike, and not every­one in these chal­leng­ing days seemed eager to wait that long.

When the first virus out­break hit the news, orga­niz­ers of the famous inter­na­tional event Vinitaly held on to their orig­i­nally-planned date in April, but then Covid-19 kept spread­ing like no virus has done before and they even­tu­ally decided to resched­ule for next June — a deci­sion that in turn pushed other orga­ni­za­tions to post­pone their related events in those weeks.

The coro­n­avirus has hit Italian agri­cul­ture at its heart. Spring is com­ing and the many sea­sonal work­ers from abroad will not be able to work in Italy in one of the busiest sea­sons for the sec­tor.

Farmers and grow­ers from north to south expressed their wor­ries. The farm­ers’ asso­ci­a­tion Coldiretti issued a state­ment ask­ing super­mar­kets to favor Italian agri­cul­tural prod­ucts.

We ask all food resellers to adhere with their choices to the cam­paign #EatItalian, putting on their shelves moz­zarella made out of Italian milk, ham com­ing from our farms, true Italian extra vir­gin olive oil,” said the asso­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Ettore Prandini.

Italian agri­cul­ture accounts for a quar­ter of the Italian GDP and employs 3.8 mil­lion peo­ple. The whole food chain must act to pro­tect this value.”

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