KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI, USA – Italy, a peninsula in the Mediterranean Sea in the south of the European Union, has a grain and oilseed sector that is characteristic in many ways. It is a large rice producer in European comparison and produces soybeans. Famous for its pasta, it is a big consumer of durum wheat. The Italian agri-food sector focuses on the production of high quality goods, often under the EU system of protected geographical names.
The International Grains Council (IGC) puts Italy’s total grain production in 2021-22 at 14.5 million tons, down from an earlier estimate of 14.9 million. The 2020-21 harvest was 15.1 million tons. The total for 2021-22 is 7 million tons of wheat, which is below the previous month’s forecast of 7.3 million tons, but is still higher than the 2020-21 crop of 6.5 million. The IGC number for wheat 2021-22 includes 4.1 million tonnes of durum, revised down from an earlier forecast of 4.3 million, but still above last year’s 3.8 million tonnes.
Italy’s corn production is estimated at 5.9 million tons, unchanged from the previous forecast and from 6.7 million tons produced in the 2020-21 period. The IGC is also forecasting an unchanged harvest of 300,000 tons of sorghum compared to the previous year.
The European grain trading organization COCERAL puts the total oilseed production in Italy in 2021 at 1.535 million tons compared to 1.541 million tons in the previous year. Soybeans are the country’s largest oilseed crop at 1.224 million tons in 2021-22, up from 1.221 million the previous year. The 2021 canola harvest is estimated at 47,000 tonnes, up from 44,000, while sunflower seed production is estimated at 264,000, up from 276,000 in 2020-21.
Italy is also the EU’s second largest olive oil producer after Spain. According to a report by the Attaché on the oilseeds sector dated April 16, 2021, the country’s olive oil production will be 260,000 tons in 2021-22.
“This corresponds to a decrease of 30% compared to the previous season, mainly due to the alternating storage of olive trees, coupled with sudden shifts from drought to rainfall in the leading growing region of Puglia,” the report said. “In addition, the spread of the harmful plant bacterium Xylella Fastidiosa in Apulia has contributed to the decline.”
In an annual report on the EU grain sector of the 16th in the east of Emilia-Romagna, where rainfall was almost average. “
“The combination of mild temperatures and dry conditions in February helped reduce excessive soil moisture,” the report said. “At the moment, the yield expectations for Italian grain production are good.”
The same report predicts an increase in EU wheat imports, noting that “the increase is being driven by strong demand for durum wheat in Italy, the EU’s largest wheat importer, as the shorter domestic wheat harvest and intra-EU imports drive domestic demand for the Cannot cover pasta production ”. . “
The FAS also found that Italy is by far the largest rice producer in the EU with around 53% of production.
“Rice is mainly grown in the north (Piedmont, Lombardy and Veneto regions), where water is relatively abundant and the rice crop can be grown in flooded fields,” said the FAS. “Approximately 81% of the rice varieties grown in Italy are Japonica, while the rest of the varieties are Indica.
“With the exception of limited quantities of paddy exports and domestic seed sales, virtually all Italian rice is marketed as a whole-grain milled product.”
According to the Italian milling association ITALMOPA, there were 296 mills in the country in 2020. They processed 5.25 million tons of common wheat into 3.883 million tons of flour and 6.3 million tons of durum wheat into 4.206 million tons of semolina.
The European industry association European Flour Millers puts the utilization of the Italian flour mills at 58%. Its industry handbook explains that Italy imports around 65% of the common wheat it processes and names the main sources France, Germany, Austria and Hungary within the EU and the United States and Canada outside the EU. The non-EU origins account for 20-25% of imports.
The European group puts the Italian bread consumption at 42 kilograms per person per year, with the average Italian flour consumption being 66 kilograms per year.
The European Flour Millers lists the largest milling companies in alphabetical order: Grandi Molini Italiani, Grupo Casillo, Macinazione Lendinara, Molini Agugiaro Figna, Molini Bongiovanni, Molini Dentri, Molini Industriali, Molino Chiavazza, Molino Lario, Molino Pagani, Molini Pivetti, Molino Quaglia , Nova and Simec.
The Attaché’s annual report on oilseeds states that Italy is the main driver behind the increase in EU imports of palm oil for biofuel production.
“Italy has two hydrogenated renewable diesel (HDRD) plants, one of which will be expanded from 325 million liters to 540 million liters and another 770 million liters plant opened in August 2019,” the report said.
A FAS Rome report on agricultural biotechnology dated November 12, 2020 highlights Italy’s reliance on imported GM raw materials for its livestock and dairy sectors, particularly soybeans with imports of 2 million tons and soybean meal, of which 1.9 million tons a year Imported in 2019 Italy’s top soybean suppliers are the United States and Brazil, while Argentina is the dominant soybean meal supplier.
“Even so, the general attitude towards genetically modified (GE) plants remains hostile,” the report said. “The national media debate about genetically modified plants and plant experiments has made it politically inedible to support research and the cultivation of genetic engineering.”
The result is that “public and private research funding for GE products has been gradually reduced to zero and there are currently no GE field trials in Italy,” the report said, but it noted that then Italian Agriculture Minister Teresa Bellanova as well as the agricultural organizations Coldiretti, Confagricoltura and Cia as well as industry players and scientists had spoken out in favor of innovative biotechnologies such as genome editing.
As Italy is a member state of the European Union, the basic guidelines for Italian agricultural and food policy are established at EU level. This means that it is subject to the EU’s new, reformed Common Agricultural Policy, which is due to come into force in 2023. Under the new framework, the Italian government needs to develop a national strategic plan for its agricultural sector with a greater focus on climate and environmental goals than before. The European Commission has made recommendations for Italy’s national plan, which includes measures to strengthen the agricultural sector, which is hampered by the small farm size and the low level of digitalization, as well as proposals to make the industry more sustainable and to improve the position of farmers in the value chain.
This against the background of the Green Deal for Europe proposed by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the associated strategies “Farm to Fork” and biodiversity. The ambitious plans include a significant reduction in the use of pesticides and fertilizers and an increase in the proportion of organic farmland.
The new Italian strategic plan should also include the Italian government’s proposal on how these changes are to be achieved.