Business

Lockdown Extension Adds to Setbacks for Italian Producers

The extension, in an area that was mostly spared by the virus outbreak that ran wild in northern Italy, has prompted local institutions to call on the central government to let their region set its own course of economic recovery.

May. 5, 2020
By Paolo DeAndreis

Extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­ers in Italy are dis­ap­pointed by the news of the exten­sion of the food­ser­vice sec­tor lock­down.

We all know there is no magic wand to restore this busi­ness, but many restau­rants are ready to open with a new san­i­tary pol­icy.- Renzo Carneva­leof, agri­cul­tural prod­uct trans­porter

Farm­ers in Umbria who pro­duce some of the most highly-regarded Cen­tral Ital­ian olive oils saw their mar­kets dis­ap­pear when restau­rants and hotels were shut down on March 6. There is no relief in sight, as the Ital­ian gov­ern­ment has now extended the food­ser­vice sec­tor’s lock­down for at least another month.

The exten­sion in an area that was mostly spared by the virus out­break that ran wild in north­ern Italy, has prompted local insti­tu­tions to call on the cen­tral gov­ern­ment to let their region set its own course of eco­nomic recov­ery from the effects of the pan­demic.

Grow­ers of the high-qual­ity Umbrian PDO (Pro­tected Des­ig­na­tion of Ori­gin) olive oil had been warn­ing of what was com­ing for weeks. They claim that the cen­tral gov­ern­men­t’s recov­ery strate­gies will not be enough to save the indus­try, which cul­ti­vates almost 7.5 mil­lion olive trees. There are 250 oil mills there, com­pris­ing a sig­nif­i­cant chunk of Umbri­a’s agri­cul­ture. It is the only Ital­ian olive oil PDO extended to an entire region.

See more: Trans­porters Warn of Effects of COVID-19 Mea­sures on Food Sup­ply

As soon as restau­rants, farm­houses, pizze­rias and hotels were shut down, the local pro­duc­ers were hit. The halt to the food­ser­vice mar­ket­ing chan­nel strikes mostly the small local grow­ers, whose pro­duc­tions are mainly aimed to those cus­tomers,” said Albano Agabiti, head of the Umbria del­e­ga­tion of the farm­ers asso­ci­a­tion Coldiretti.

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While the big farm­ers can rely on national dis­tri­b­u­tion chan­nels and even nur­ture olive oil export oper­a­tions, most of Umbri­a’s small- and medium-sized com­pa­nies have always relied on local, trusted cus­tomers.

The prob­lem I feel the most is that the gov­ern­ment keeps delay­ing the date when restau­rants will be able to open again,” regional agri­cul­tural prod­uct trans­porter Renzo Carneva­leof told Olive Oil Times. We all know there is no magic wand to restore this busi­ness, but many restau­rants are ready to open with a new san­i­tary pol­icy. Many have already restruc­tured and just wait for the go-ahead.”

Donatella Tesei, Umbria region pres­i­dent, called the gov­ern­men­t’s deci­sion ques­tion­able,” not­ing that many com­pa­nies and com­mer­cial asso­ci­a­tions had been prepar­ing to reopen on May 4 as pre­vi­ously promised.

“[The gov­ern­ment] decided that regions can not set their own course, not even to ease the lock­down mea­sures, not even in face of the spe­cific sit­u­a­tion of the epi­demic in their own ter­ri­to­ries,” she said.

Tesei said Umbria and other regions would be ask­ing the Ital­ian gov­ern­ment for a well-defined black and white recov­ery plan,” as well as sub­mit­ting their own ideas for an eco­nomic recov­ery time­line.



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