Parmesan gets an Italian bail out

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 15th December 2008

The term “bail out” has been popular amongst politicians this year as banks and car makers have searched for – and often received – government help. And now Italy has proved just how fond it is of cheese with a different kind of bail out.

The Italian Government has announced they will assist struggling parmesan cheese makers as the global financial crisis takes its toll on the industry. Rising costs of making the product have put pressure on manufacturers and this has combined with a decline in sales to cause severe stress for the industry.

The Italian Agriculture Ministry will purchase 100,000 of the country’s Parmigiano Reggiano cheeses from producers at a cost to the country of 50 million euros (A$100.95 million). The cheese will be given to charitable causes, helping families in need.

“Parmesan is undoubtedly the most famous Italian food product in the world and although it is worth a billion euros a year it is being hit by the economic crisis,” Leo Bertozzi, president of the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium, said – according to UK’s Telegraph. “Minister Zaia’s announcement is without doubt a positive step forward to deal with what is a very difficult situation.”

The news has been met with relief in the north of the country, where Parmesan cheese is made, but has caused much angst in the south where mozzarella makers have been battling to cope with a downturn in demand. The news prompted the Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno newspaper, based in the south, to report that, while it was welcome for the govenment to help out a struggling industry, “it is a pity … that the aid is going only to parmesan makers in the North.” Mozzarella makers have been calling for aid as well but, to-date, none has been forthcoming.