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Italy finds innovative ways to profit from rich agricultural heritage

(People's Daily)    08:47, May 30, 2018

A cheese store in Italy’s shopping mall Eataly. (Photos: Han Shuo/People’s Daily)

ROME (People’s Daily) — In Italy, with its long heritage of culinary and agricultural excellence, there is a story behind every dish.

Italy’s “new retail” success story Eataly has found a way to capitalize on this heritage. Each Eataly marketplace is massive, featuring a variety of restaurants, food and beverage counters, bakeries, retail items, and a cooking school.

To get an idea of the scale of Eataly, each marketplace features more than 200 types of poultry, and 2,000 different crops. In Eataly’s workshops, classrooms, and restaurants, the tale of each dish is weaved into profit.

Eataly is an example of the Italian “new agriculture plus new retail” concept that has become popular domestically and in major cities around the world, demonstrating the country’s potent agricultural innovation.

The concept drives the development of agriculture from the sales end, directly benefiting farmers who have signed contracts with enterprises like Eataly.

Sustainable development and profit

Italy’s agricultural advantages are mainly attributed to its rich historical legacy, producers’ innovative thinking, and the rigorous pursuit of quality and safety standards. The country's respect for traditional farming and protection of the environment and biodiversity are also key factors.

Agricultural professionals strictly stick to the principles of sustainable development. The crops grow naturally. Livestock breeding and vegetable farming are done in a complementary fashion, for example by using animal waste as fertilizer, which not only ensures the products’ quality, but also protects the soil and water resources.

The Italian government has set legal standards for major agricultural and livestock products, and legislated the grading of these products.

The country’s respect for agriculture and nature results in high-quality agricultural products. Italy has obtained the highest number of certifications within the Europe Union (EU). Italy’s products are frequently labeled with value-creating certifications such as "protected designation of origin,” "protected geographical indications" and "traditional speciality guaranteed.”

A food processing workshop in Italy’s shopping mall Eataly.

Green agricultural tourism becomes a lifestyle

In 1865, Italy established the national association of agriculture and tourism. In 1985, Italy became the first EU country to codify agricultural tourism into its legal system.

At present, more than 10,000 management companies in Italy specialize in “green agricultural tourism,” making weekend visits or vacations on a working farm a lifestyle for all Italian people.

A food processing workshop in Italy’s shopping mall Eataly.

Back to the land

In recent years, the Italian government has adopted various measures to promote the development of agricultural tourism to increase farmers' income and employment opportunities.

The Italian government offers farmers under the age of 40 with preferential social security payment policies. The EU provides additional subsides for agricultural professionals under the age of 35. Enterprises can also receive special funding based on their agricultural activities.

All of these supportive policies are paying dividends. The younger generation in Italy is showing growing interest in returning to farmland.

They are mainly engaged in raising food crops, dairy production and agricultural tourism. These young people have brought new technology and innovation to rural areas, even as Italy brings its innovative agricultural retailing concepts to major cities around the world.

In many countries including China, young people are flooding to cities, and people consider farming to be an undesirable and low income profession.

Through innovation and supportive policies, Italy has turned its rich agricultural heritage into a story it can sell to an eager world. 

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(Web editor: Xu JiaWei, Liang Jun)

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