The latest news from the Italian market
More Olive Oil from Tunisia will be sold in European Supermarkets with no taxation. Is the UE penalizing Italy and its Made-in-Italy quality products?
These latest decisions were voted for in Brussels, and while they seem to take the economy of some north-African nations into account, they appear to forget those of Italy and its producers and consumers.
This phase originally started with new guidelines on Egyptian oranges, followed by olive oil from Tunisia, and finally with the decision on the Moroccan tomatoes. The EU continues to compromise on imported products from North Africa as a policy of solidarity. For example, the Tunisian oil case stated that it intends to help the Tunisian economy after the damage the tourism sector suffered following the attack in Sousse. Albeit with noble intentions, the sales threaten to cripple Italy’s agriculture, especially in the South.
More specifically, the International Trade Committee of the European Parliament voted for it, and by a large majority, with 31 votes in favour. This also included MPs of the Italian Partito Democratico, who voted seven against and with one absence, in favour of a new regulation that will give the green light to importing Tunisian Olive Oil at zero duty for 2016-2017 - an increase of 70 thousand tonnes of privileged exportation.
Bellavita (BV) – How could the Italian Olive Oil industry be affected by this decision?
Barbara Matera (BM) - The tax exemption on imports of olive oil from Tunisia is undoubtedly a significant signal of solidarity to a country that suffers a daily threat of terrorism, but unfortunately it is also a blow to a key sector of our economy, especially in Puglia where the oil sector has already been through some serious difficulties due to Xylella bacterium.
According to a report provided by the Italian olive consortium, we are seeing a significant decrease in the amount of Italian oil production, which would drop to around 400 thousand tonnes, a big drop considering that historical production has always ranged between 480 thousand and 550 thousand tonnes. Just this information alone should be enough to rethink the whole subject.
Barbara Matera, along with few other MEPs, had a strong reaction to the new regulation where unfortunately, not all the EU politicians analyzed the Italian Market Oil sector alongside their wish to grant a uniting hand to Tunisia.
Barbara Matera - I, along with fellow MEPs, have already personally committed to the issue. At first we jointly signed an urgent question to the European Commission, asking them to revise the new ruling to expand the import quota for Olive Oil from Tunisia into the tax exemption scheme.
Although I am not a full member of the committees INTA and AGRI, I’ve supported the suppressive amendments drafted by Italian PPE colleagues. Unfortunately, our political view was not shared by the majority of the members of the Committees, and now the final vote will take place in the Plenary section of parliament.
We will continue to work so that the vote takes our opinions and the situation of the Italian oil producers into account. The paradox is that one of the major sponsors of this so-called solidarity agreement with a country threatened by terrorism is the Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini, an Italian representative who shows a complete disregard for the inevitable negative effects that this measure will bring in Italy.
So what can we do as consumers? The only thing at the moment is to make sure we read the label, and look for oil that is 100% Italian, as well as looking closely at the origin of the olives, which producers are legally required to disclose. Mind some tricky definitions such as "Community mixtures of oils and / or non-EU", which show that this is NOT made from Italian oil.
The final vote on Olive Oil from Tunisia will be made by the Strasbourg Plenary, and is scheduled for later this month, but in the meantime, furious controversy has arose.
So furious in fact, that another important decision could also sneak in almost unnoticed. In another agreement, EU-Morocco is promising to loosen restrictions on other agricultural products, most specifically tomatoes, which will have doubled the export limit by coming from Rabat and Casablanca.
Many Italian producers and farmers’ associations have launched an SOS, but so far the Minister of Agriculture Maurizio Martina hasn’t given a clear stance about these issues.
The food industry in Italy is also facing some never-ending problems, such as the so-called ‘Italian Sounding’ issue - when products are being sold as Italian which have very little to do with Italy, an ongoing issue that is continuously increasing. According to Eurispes the issue has grown by 10% compared to last year.
This traditional Risotto alla Milanese recipe is a rich, creamy dish which gets its vivid colour and flavour from saffron, a famous spice of the Italian city.
Bring the streets of Milan into your kitchen, with this simple, English version of Risotto alla Milanese. Usually served with "luganega" sausages (a long, mild, uncured sausage), also sometimes called a "salsiccia a metro" ("sausage by the metre") because it's sold, shockingly, by the metre. The rice is also cooked with wine and cheese for the ultimate indulgent eating experience, all the way from Northern Italy.
You will need:
- 350g Carnoli rice
- 50g butter
- 1 onion, chopped
- 200g sausage (preferably the chipolata or cumberland variety)
- 100g grated Parmigiano
- 1 litre beef stock
- 120 ml white wine
- dried saffron
- salt and pepper, to taste
1. Cut half of the sausage into pieces and crush the other half.
2. Melt 25 grams of butter in a saucepan and sauté the onion with crumbled sausage for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the rice and toast it for about a minute, then pour in the white wine. Add the hot broth a ladle at a time.
3. Fry the pieces of sausage in a frying pan until cooked.
4. Add the saffron to the risotto after about 10 minutes.
5. Add the grated Parmigiano, the pieces of sausage and the remaining butter. Turn off the heat, stir and cover the pan. Let rest for a few minutes before serving.
6. Buon Appetito!
What are the new food trends in the US?
According to the National Restaurant Association the picture is clear and simple: In a recent survey, 1,575 American chefs predict what will be the new fashion in food. The results? Exotic imported foods, a great attention to craftsmanship and regionality and a growing interest on fresh food, natural products and 'home made' recipes.
People will become especially interested in the best homemade ice-creams, beers, cheeses, preserves and all that is natural or organic. There will also be a continued growth in the import of Italian wine, and the desire for genuine Italian flavours in general. In 2015, exports to the US of Made-in-Italy products reached an astonishing +28%.
But the import of Italian food is not the only growing trend in US.
In the last few years, the amount of Farmers' Markets have also rapidly increased.
So much so that the Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack declared that the 2nd till the 8th August will be "National Farmers' Market Week," honouring the key role that Farmers' Markets play in local economies.
But how many Farmers' Markets are now in place in the US?
From 1994–2014, the number of Farmers’ Markets in the United States rose from 1,765 to more than 8,268, increasing by 180% from 2006–2014.
What are consumers looking for when shopping in a Farmers' Market?
Food in Farmers' Markets are fresh, affordable and healthy. The food is provided by local producers, so the environment is less polluted.
Want to shopping in a Farmers' Markets? You'll be most likely to find one in these states...
Still looking for your favourite Farmers' Markets?
Maybe this list for healthy travellers will help you out.
Most of life’s problems can be solved with a good meal and a glass of wine. The one, unwavering constant in our life. We could always rely on a few bottles of Barolo to get us through a bad breakup, or a trusty pizza to fix a hangover, even that comforting bowl of pasta in the evening after a long day at work. But it seems that our loyal food friends perhaps aren’t all they seem, as this week, the Italian police seized 85,000 tonnes of green olives that were treated with copper sulphate to brighten their colour, and thousands of tonnes of counterfeit olive oil being passed off as “Made-in-Italy”.*
As it stands, nineteen people are apparently facing charges for the “painted” olives, which are not only fake, but also contain a dangerous substance. Old olives from years ago were “recycled” with a coat of copper sulphate, to give them an intense, bright green and appear fresher. Police stated that the copper sulphate was a clever choice, as it is not classed as a typical colourant so is not tested for by authorities.
Also seized by the Italian police was 7,000 tonnes of counterfeit olive oil. Although the label claimed it was “100% Italian” EVOO, it turns out that the decent stuff was often diluted with sunflower or canola oil, and then scrubbed with chemicals to mask the taste. DNA tests showed that the famous so-called authentic olive oil was actually from Syria and Turkey.* Authorities in Italy - the world’s second biggest olive producer - thought things seemed a little fishy when they saw the oil selling, despite a poor 2014 harvest, and found a dozen companies in Apulia and one certification laboratory were all involved in the scam, which was sold on Italian, Japanese and US markets.
Apparently, a huge 80% of all the Extra Virgin Olive Oil sold in the United States could fail the standard benchmark requirements, which detail that it should be from the first press, and thus have an acidity of no more than 0.8 grams per 100g. Thomas Mueller, an investigative journalist who has lived in Italy for 20 years, stated that the best EVOO “can sell for $50-a-gallon… but a fake costs just seven dollars to make. Therefore, the profit margin can be three times better than cocaine.”
The investigation was reported by 60 Minutes, which also found counterfeited versions of cheese, wine, milk, bread and butter, with police estimating that the domestic market for fake foodstuffs is worth around €1billion a year. Back in 2014, fake labels were found on 30,000 bottles of red wine, intercepted by cops, which was labelled as Brunello Di Montalcino, that was in fact, a much much cheaper version, which would have netted the criminals $5 million.*
Seeing as its #pancakeday we decided to take an Italian take on the famous sweet crepe.
The Italian equivalent of crepes are called crespelles, and were once considered a poor mans food. However, in 1895, the Maitre at Montecarlo's Café de Paris, Henri Carpentier made them at the table for the then Prince of Wales, who enjoyed them so much that he called the dish "Crepes Suzette" after his lady friend. And we now have a whole day named after them (#pancakeday - it's almost a second christmas).
Swapping Grand Marnier for Prosecco, oranges for blueberries and adding ricotta because, well, why not, this Italian take is the perfect #pancakeday pudding.
- a tub of fresh blueberries
- 120ml Prosecco
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled
- juice of one lemon, plus zest
- 200g Italian 00 flour
- 4 large eggs
- 600ml milk
- a tub of ricotta
- olive oil
1. In a saucepan, add the prosecco, sugar, ginger, and zest half the lemon and cook the liquid into a syrup.
2. Taste to check its okay and adjust accordingly, then add the blueberries and cook at a simmer for 1-2 minutes until the berries are tender.
4. To make the pancakes, sift the flour into a bowl and add a pinch of salt, then add the beaten eggs and milk and whisk until smooth.
5. Brush a heavy based frying pan, on a medium heat, with some olive oil.
6. When hot, pour a ladle of the batter mixture into the saucepan, and swirl around to cover the base.
7. Once the underneath of the pancake is golden and it comes away easily from the sides, turn over and cook the other side. This should take about 1 minute on each side, and once they're almost cooked, add a large spoonful of ricotta into the centre of the pancake, and enclose it by folding over the sides to make a package.
8. Serve the ricotta parcels, topped with a generous serving of your boozy blueberry compote.
What did you cook for #pancakeday? Anything Italian?
Bellavita meets Goccia Umbra, who will be part of our next Bellavita Expo in Amsterdam.
Based in Umbria, his company produces extraordinary Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Bellavita (BV) - Is your company based more on innovation or on history and tradition?
Goccia Umbra (GU)- Seeing as Goccia Umbra is based on its ability to combine new technologies with the age-old traditions of cultivation and olive pressing. Despite our new discoveries in technology and our constant development, we maintain the authenticity and the fragrance of the past, to ensure that we meet the demand and tease consumers. We have always produced handcrafted, 100% Made-in-Italy extra virgin olive oils, along with a modern approach to the market.
BV - You have chosen to take part in the next edition of Bellavita EXPO. What do you expect from the event?
GU - We did a little research, reading about the Bellavita project and what it proposes to customers. Bellavita offers the possibility for small producers with niche, high-quality products to connect with specialists and buyers. We know that those who try our products are delighted, so we want more and more people to taste it; that's what we expect from participating in the fair.
BV - When was your company founded? How is it growing? Tell us your story!
GU - In 1988, among the hills of Orvieto, Ms. Marcella Patrizi founded the brand Goccia Umbra with the intention to create genuine, top-quality extra virgin olive oil. Over the years the company has expanded and now sells a variety of products, as well as starting to export abroad. Since then, Goccia Umbra has participated in many fairs and events - always with positive results. In May of 2015, we took over the company making this our family business. We brought a breath of fresh air and now we're working hard to carry the mission of Goccia Umbra forward, and to make the best selection of products possible, as well as constantly exploring new commercial possibilities.