Daring foreigners taking over Italy trade

Foreigners are increasingly taking over traditionally Italian business sectors, such as food and textiles, thanks to their innovative approach and willingness to take risks, according to one expert.

Prosecco and Parma ham are two of Italy’s most famous food exports, but they are increasingly produced by foreign hands.

While 96.6 percent of quality-stamped Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene is owned by Italians, the number of foreigners in the market has jumped by 88.9 percent over the past five years.

During the same period the number of Italian business owners in the Prosecco trade has increased by just 10.4 percent, new statistics from the Leone Moressa research foundation (FLM) show.

Parma ham, meanwhile, is increasingly likely to be produced by Albanians.

Foreign ownership has jumped by 17.6 percent over the past five years, reaching 4.8 percent of the market, while Italian ownership has fallen by 8.3 percent. Albanians are the top foreign producers, followed by French and Moroccans.

Overall foreign ownership in Italy’s food and agriculture sectors has jumped 24.3 percent in just five years, while the Italian stake has fallen 3.2 percent.

According to Enrico Di Pasquale, an FLM researcher, the shift in ownership is not only down to the economic crisis.

“The outsourcing to countries with lower labour costs, the difficulty to access credit, the fall in the number of consumers in the internal market,” have all had an impact on Italian businesses, Di Pasquale told The Local.

Meanwhile foreigners have seen the crisis as an opportunity to move into the market.

“Foreign business owners, on the other hand, generally demonstrate a greater propensity to take risks,” Di Pasquale said.

They have also proven themselves able to develop “innovative services”, such as international money transfers, which were at first aimed at immigrants but are increasingly being used by Italians.

The greatest foreign success story has been the Chinese takeover of the textile market in Tuscany.

In the city of Prato, foreigners now own 78.4 percent of textile and clothing businesses. Of these, 98.8 percent have Chinese owners while 0.2 percent are owned by Nigerians.

In nearby Empoli, Italians own just 51.5 percent of the textile industry, while further afield in Verona a quarter of the fashion market is in foreign hands.

Across the country foreigners now own 24.0 percent of the textile and clothing businesses, a 10.5 percent jump in five years while Italians’ presence in the market has plummeted 20.6 percent.

The growth in foreign-owned businesses has been boosted by the expansion of the EU, China’s economic boom and increasing immigration since the 1990s.

The trend is set to continue, according to Di Pasquale. “It’s possible to imagine that the foreign business owners will in the future represent a stable component of our economic system,” he said. 

SEE ALSO: Foreigners eclipse Italians in finding jobs

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Italy’s booming Prosecco production is ‘unsustainable’, say researchers

Skyrocketing global demand for Prosecco may be putting too much strain on the precious soil in northeastern Italy’s vineyards, Italian researchers reported.

Italy's booming Prosecco production is 'unsustainable', say researchers
The UK and US are Italy's biggest export markets for Prosecco. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

The boom in prosecco production in recent years may be an environmental hazard, as it is contributing to the erosion of some 400 million kiograms of soil every year, according to a new study of Italy's biggest prosecco-producing regions by the University of Padua.

Letting too much earth wash away with rain and irrigation could jeopardize the future of the region’s vineyards, which produce 446 million bottles of prosecco every year, 90 million bottles of which are for export.

The research looked at three of Veneto's biggest Prosecco-producing areas, incluidng the Conegliano Valdobbiadene area.

 READ ALSO: Brexit could make Prosecco pricier for British buyers, Italian winemakers warn

The research found the prosecco industry was responsible for 74 percent of the region’s total soil erosion, and estimated that the “soil footprint”, or amount of soil lost, for the production of each bottle is about 3.3 kilograms.

“The soil is a non-renewable resource.” states the report. “A territory like the Prosecco area gives excellent results from an economic point of view, but this level of production in the long run will hardly be sustainable “.

Prosecco vineyards could reduce their soil loss, the scientists say. One solution — leaving grass between vineyard rows — would cut total erosion in half, simulations show.

Other strategies could include planting hedges around vineyards or vegetation by rivers and streams to prevent soil from washing away.

Prosecco is more popular thn ever before. Photo: Depositphotos

Demand from abroad for the famous Italian fizz is higher than ever before. Last year's figures show record-breaking sparkling wine sales abroad valued at over 1.5 billion.

Much of that was Prosecco, but the figures included sales of other Italian sparkling wines such as Asti or Franciacorta, which are less well-known outside of Italy.

The UK ranks as the biggest market for Italian sparkling wines, followed by the US and Germany.

Repubblica wrote that rthere have been numerous “false reports” about Prosecco in the British press, which it said had “launched an attack” after the commercial success of prosecco “caused beer sales to drop in the pubs of Great Britain.”

It quoted the president of the Veneto Region, Luca Zaia, as saying British are “purely envious” of Italian prosecco.

Zaia, a controversial figure, has previously dismissed negative reports about Prosecco as “fake news” and “the umpteenth Anglo Saxon crusade against Italian products.”

Italian wines in general are undergoing a difficult period in their relations with the UK. Producers and stakeholders alike have expressed fears regarding how Brexit could affect Italy's wine industry


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