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Food exports in the U.S. aim to grow by 15% this year and exploit an untapped potential of $9 billion

by Marco Valsania

Italian companies took center stage yesterday at the FMI Connect, one of the leading food and beverage B2B fairs in the United States. Italy was named host country at the three-day event in Chicago, that brings together 900 sellers from all over the world and thousands of buyers from large American supermarket chains. In all, 52 Made-in-Italy companies participated, a presence anchored for the first time by the cooperation of three Italian trade fairs, Fiera di Parma, Verona Fiera e Fiera Milano. Support came from Federalimentari, from ITA (Italian Trade Agency or Ice), and the deputy minister for Economic Development, Carlo Calenda.

“We need to increase the visibility and availability of Italian products - Calenda said - .This is also the best way to contain the phenomenon of imitations and Italian sounding products.” Italy through ITA will launch a campaign starting in October to promote a wider range of food products, thanks to an agreement with large U.S. distribution and retail chains, such as Price Chopper and Mariano's. An international effort funded by €72 million for the sector, 44 million destined just to the U.S., out of the total €260 million mobilized this year for the overall support of made in Italy.

Calenda also expressed optimism on the conclusion of a free trade agreement between Europe and the U.S., the so called TTIP, that could benefit Italy. “An agreement on some key areas is likely by early 2016”, he said, especially on tariffs and on a regulatory convergence. Italy should also eventually obtain recognition for standards in the debate on the country or area of origin for its products.

Opening yesterday the trade fair in an auditorium packed with food professionals, Calenda said: “It's a great honor to be part of this initiative. It is a fantastic occasion to get in touch, to connect, with the best potential partners for our business. We have to bring more Italian products on the shelves and show that our product is the best you can have”. Roberto Luongo, general Director of Ice, said the agency now “is spearheading a great effort in the United States, and later it will also reach other countries such as China and Japan.”

Calenda thinks it is possible that Italian exports in the U.S., thanks to new initiatives and promotions, could grow by as much as 15% this year. Last year the Made-in-Italy grew 6,2% to $4.8 billion. Italy became the seventh supplier for the U.S. market in the first quarter of 2015 and the U.S. is the third largest market for Italian products. As far as food and beverages are concerned, Italy leads in such categories as wine, cheese, pasta, olive oil. “The U.S. market has still an untapped potential of $9 billion even before a TTIP deal”, estimated Calenda.