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Italian food products hold leadership positions in world trade

by Marco Fortis

Italy is number one in the food industry, studies show.

The quality of Italian “food” is recognized internationally, and this can foster export, according to a study by the Fondazione Symbola, a foundation that aims to increase the value of “Made in Italy” products. According to this estimate, Italy holds the top three positions globally for 120 products for the average unit value of agricultural food products traded on an international level.

In a separate report on global business, agricultural food products and drinks were represented by 700 items surveyed by international organizations.

In 2012 they were 704 items and, according to an analysis by the Edison Foundation that promotes economic surveys, in 70 of these cases Italy took first, second and third position in the world for the best foreign trade balance, with a surplus concerning these products equal to $21 billion.

In the ranking of positive foreign trade balances, Italy is in first position with products like alimentary pastes, chocolate (though not in bars), tomato derivatives, apples, and preserved pork.

What's more, Italy has a greater number of food certifications on an EU level: Italy is, in fact, the strongest country for “distinctive” products, with 264 PDO (”protected designation of origin”) and PGI (”protected geographical indication”), to which can be added 4,698 traditional regional specialties.

Italy is followed at a distance by France, 207, and Spain, 162. In the wine sector, Italy can count on 332 DOC (”controlled designation of origin”), 73 DOCG (”controlled designation of origin and guaranteed”) and 118 IGT (”typical geographical indication”). In organic products, Italy is in first position in Europe for the number of businesses, and among the first in the world for surface area and growth rate.

Food is also an important driving force for the development of southern Italy. According to Eurostat, southern Italy is the second macroregion in the EU after the Paris Basin, and Italy's islands are in the fourteenth position for added value in the agricultural sector, forestry and fishing.

As far as durum wheat is concerned, Italy is first in the EU for the value of its low-cost production. In terms of citrus fruits, Italy is second after Spain, with Sicily and Sardinia in second position in the EU and the south occupying the fourth position. Finally, southern Italy is second among the European macroregion producers of olive oil.

Italy is strong in Mediterranean products and in the food and drink industries. It is weak, however, in terms of raw materials and in such products as milk, fresh meat, and fish. In 2013, according to Istat, Italy exported €5.9 billion euro in agricultural, animal and fish products (main markets: Germany, France, Austria and Switzerland).

The Italian export of food industry products was instead equal to €20.8 billion (with Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the USA as the four top destinations).
According to Federalimentare, a sector association, the impact of export on food sales has, in ten years, increased by almost 50%, going from 14% in 2004 to 20.5% in 2014.