The President of the largest association of Italian farmers, Ettore Prandini was very clear “We will protect consumers from counterfeits with blockchain technology and QR codes. And then history, culture and quality speak for us‘
Ettore Prandini, president of Coldiretti (the most important Italian and European agricultural association) does not mince words about the controversy raised by the Financial Times on our cuisine and even on the Italian nature of the very agri-food products that are its pillars, starting with Parmesan cheese (which is certainly not from Wisconsin): “It is a pity that such an authoritative newspaper has lent itself to a banal and superficial reconstruction that generates confusion instead of providing information. Italian agri-food culture is a heritage of mankind and we must protect it, even when we are faced with someone who, in order to gain visibility, lends himself to easy instrumentalisation, which hides great economic interests,’ he says in an interview with Theitaliantimes.it.
What is the peculiarity and success of Italian cuisine based on?
‘Italian cuisine is based on our vegetables, our cheeses, our cured meats. We have always defined Italian restaurateurs as our ‘ambassadors abroad’, because we are aware of how fundamental their role is in conveying to the world the importance of our agri-food heritage and the commitment to defend it. Italy has been able to combine and bring together three aspects: agricultural production (just see how much our agricultural landscapes are appreciated by tourists from all over the world), catering and, indeed, tourism. The fight against counterfeiting is strategic in this sense: today Italy exports 60 billion euro worth of agri-food products, but counterfeiting (so-called Italian sounding) has a total turnover of 120 billion. Our challenge for the next 7-8 years is to reverse the proportions, and to do so we must first of all ensure that consumers realise the enormous difference between original products and imitations. In the face of all this, the step desired by the Italian government, of nominating the practice of Italian cuisine to the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, is a further element of enhancement’.
A very ambitious challenge, what are you planning to do?
‘Soon our products will be tracked with blockchain technology and QR codes, so as to enhance the elements of traceability and credibility for consumers. Obviously our position generates concern among those who speculate on counterfeiting. It is unpatriotic, in the sense that they love their country little, an Italian who lends himself to exploitation by these interests. I would like these people to love their country exactly as Americans love theirs’.
Outside Italy, what can a consumer do to be sure that what he is buying is an Italian product?
‘First of all read the labels well, to always have the right information on the origin of the product. Then consult specialised websites to also understand the real history and tradition of the food excellence they want to buy. In the shortest possible time, we are working on it at a fast pace, complete traceability with QR codes will arrive: it is a job that we at Coldiretti are doing and it will be a great support to consumers’ right to be informed. My invitation to those who will be able to go on holiday abroad is to come and visit our country, where they will be able to see for themselves the difference between what is told and what we actually do on our farms and in our food chain’.
So, Italian cuisine is not at all a misleading myth, as the Financial Times would have it, according to its clumsy inspirers?
“It takes very little to demonstrate, if not bad faith, the superficiality into which the daily newspaper of finance and big international politics has fallen. The history of our country’s food culture can be found in all the great places of Italian culture: the greatest Italian poets, painters and artists talk about it in their works. Italy is the country with the largest number of PDOs (Protected Designation of Origin) in the world and it is the country with the greatest biodiversity in the world. We do not have just one type of wheat, just one type of vine: we are lucky enough to have hundreds of seed varieties that make our country a formidable reservoir of biodiversity worldwide. If we talk about viticulture, Italy is the country with the highest number of native grape varieties in the world: more than twice as many as France and five times more than Spain. And this also applies to productions such as cheeses and cured meats, and to all the others’.
Besides history, there are choices behind this process. Which ones?
“Italian agri-food has always chosen the path of non-homologisation, of distinctiveness. Obviously, this generates concern for countries that have instead invested in standardisation and would like to be able to boast our products without having our history’.
The factsheet / what is Coldiretti and why is it important
– Coldiretti is the most representative business association in the Italian agricultural sector, capable of dialoguing from strong positions with other sectors of the economy, from industry to distribution and services.
– Spread throughout Italy, Coldiretti represents 1.6 million farmers and about 70% of Italian agriculture, the ‘greenest’ in Europe
– Founded in 1944 by Paolo Bonomi, a legendary figure who came to the defence of small farmers’ property, generating a strong social impact, the association in its 80 years of life has earned the position of champion of Italian agribusiness, always in the front line to defend and enhance Italian agricultural products, promote sustainable techniques from the field to the table, ensure a fair remuneration to producers, and guarantee genuine products to consumers.
– Among Coldiretti’s battles are the one for environmental safety against the use of GMOs and the battle to guarantee access to quality natural food for all social groups, therefore against synthetic food and the introduction of insects on the table on a par with other foods.
– Since 2018, Coldiretti has been led by Ettore Prandini, a 52-year-old farmer from Brescia and father of three. The secretary general of the association is Vincenzo Gesmundo, in Coldiretti since 1981.
(Associated Medeas/The Italian Times) – All rights are reserved