Two months after the entry into force of the new American tariff regime for European food products, there has been a sharp drop in Made in Italy exports, to which is added a consequent increase in the production of fake Italian cheeses in the United States (+4% since October). A hard blow to the Italian agri-food industry, especially if we consider that in the first nine months of 2019 Italian exports to the U.S. has increased rapidly (+14.1%). The alarm is raised by Coldiretti, which, analyzing ISTAT data on foreign trade, highlights the effects of the US protectionist measures entered into force on 18 October against a list of European goods. Many Italian specialities are mentioned in the American black list, from cheeses (not only Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano, but also Mozzarella, Asiago, Gorgonzola, Fontina…) to salami, mortadella, crustaceans, molluscs, citrus fruits, juices and liqueurs such as bitters and limoncello.
Italian food goods for a total export value of about half a billion euros were hit by the application of additional 25% duties that cause higher consumer prices and a worrying reduction in purchases by US citizens and restaurateurs. The duty for Parmesan cheese and Grana Padano cheese, for example, has risen from USD 2.15 per kilo to around USD 6 per kilo. The result is that the American consumer will now have to buy it for over 45 dollars, more than double the parmesan, parmigiano’s fake version made in the USA.
Trump effect: +4% fake Italian cheeses in the US
The trumpian customs duties have led to the production of the American imitation of our cheeses. They are mainly made in Wisconsin, California and New York State. In terms of quantity, at the top of the ranking we find mozzarella with 1.97 billion kilos per year, followed by parmesan with 192 million kilos, provolone with 181 million kilos, ricotta with 113 million kilos and Romano with 25 million kilos produced…without sheep’s milk. The bad copies of italian dairy products have grown exponentially over the last 30 years, reaching a total of 2.5 billion kg in 2018. Our national producers are already aware of this problem. But now it has been magnified by the new American economic policy.
With 100% rates, Made in Italy risks damages for 1/2 billion
Trump threatens to raise to 100% the duties on European products against the digital tax (the tax on revenues that affects the big US web) and so Italian food export to the US is predicted to risk damages for half a billion.
According to Coldiretti, if the duties were really raised to 100%, our products would be completely out of the market in the United States. The 100% duty for Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano cheese, for example, would increase the retail price to almost 70 dollars per kilo, a value that is up to 3-4 times higher than the US-produced parmesan that is deceptively placed on the same shelf as the original Made in Italy.
The situation would become dramatic if the US extended the black list of Italian products to include wine which, with 1.5 billion exports in 2018, is – as reported by Coldiretti – the best-selling Made in Italy food product in the United States. The increase in prices would favour the Australian and Chilean production and, above all, the American one which already represents almost 10% of the world total. As a matter of fact, USA have become the fourth largest wine producer in the world after Italy, France and Spain, with a quantity of 24 million hectolitres.
“We need to resume dialogue to avoid a confrontation of unprecedented and worrying scenarios that risks having a dangerous avalanche effect on the economy and relations between allied countries,” said Coldiretti President Ettore Prandini in stressing that “it is necessary to activate as soon as possible compensatory aid to the hardest hit sectors and to grant support to farmers who risk suffering the effects of a perfect storm between U.S. duties and the danger of Brexit, after having suffered a loss of one billion euros over the last five years due to the total embargo of Russia.