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
By Paolo DeAndreis

Recent News

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.


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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