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.
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 Also: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.
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.