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Italy’s agri-food exports saw their growth rate drop by half in 2014

by Emanuele Scarci

Italy’s agricultural products and food exports have increased in 2014 but at half the pace of 2013. The country’s exports were estimated at €34 billion in 2014, representing a 2.4% annual increase compared with a 5.8% increase registered in 2013. The food and beverages segments performed slightly better, with a 3.2% growth, although they are still far from 2013 and 2010 levels, at 5.8% and 10.2% respectively.

“Exports growth has been influenced by a number of economic factors” says Denis Pantini, Director of Italian economics think tank Nomisma’s agriculture and food practice.

“Economic sanctions against Russia, the strengthening of the euro and a slow-down of the global economy have all contributed to contain Italy’s agri-food exports. However, the nearly total parity between the euro and the dollar should favor the growth of Italian exports in 2015,” Pantini adds.

If we take a look at data provided by Italian statistical agency ISTAT and analyzed by Nomisma, nearly all of “Made in Italy” products have seen their exports grow in 2015, a part form agricultural products, at €5.6 billion (-1.3%) and vegetable fats, at €1.9 billion (-1.8%).
All other main export items (i.e. those whose value are estimated at least €1 billion) have registered growth rates that go from 1.7% (beverages) to 4.7% (cereals and dairy products).

We must highlight the sudden slowdown of two of Italy’s leading cheese products, Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano, whose exports stalled at €770 million (+0.2%) against a 4.8% average growth in the cheese segment. It was probably a drop in demand from extra-EU markets, perhaps from Russia, which negatively affected demand for two of Italy’s most widely known food products. Back in their home market (the EU) they registered a 3.4% growth.

Pasta’s exports reached €2.26 billion, a 4.2% growth over the previous year. Wine exports grew by 1.4%, reaching €5.11 billion, marking a positive result compared with the weak performance that was registered halfway through the year.
Finally, olive oil products enjoyed a tiny growth (0.2%), at €1.1 billion.

About 70% of Italy’s food exports reach European markets. The UK and the Netherlands are particularly strong markets, accounting for €3 billion (+7%) and €1.2 billion (4%) respectively. The Netherlands is a leading global trade hub, thus partially explaining its strong demand for Italian imports. Demand from Germany has slowed down by an estimated 2%, at €6 billion.

Both the US and Japan have once again proved to be important markets at €3 billion (+6.3%) and at €781 million (+7%) respectively. If we take a look at emerging markets, we see that the drastic fall in demand from Russia, now at €615 million is counterbalanced by a growth in demand from China (7.6%) and Brazil (14.8%).

Demand for Italian wine keeps on growing in both the US (+4.4%) and the UK (6.2%) while it is slowing down in Russia (-10.5%) and getting back to good levels in China (+1.2%).