While the Victorian Government looks to strengthen the state’s food and fibre sector, and grow Victoria’s food and fibre exports to $20 billion by 2030, much can be learnt from other food producing regions of the world.
For innovation in agri-food production, marketing and export we need look no further than the rich gastronomic region of Emilia-Romagna – proclaimed Italy’s food valley.
With its broad lowland and adequate water supply (from both rainfall and irrigation), Emilia-Romagna is one of the leading agricultural regions of Italy. Wheat, corn (maize), fodder, and sugar beets are the principal crops; vegetables and fruits are also grown in the lowlands and grapes on the Apennine slopes. Livestock raising and dairy farming are extensive, and the region has a large food-processing and food-packing industry.
Emilia-Romagna’s total land area is just 9.4 per cent the size of Victoria, yet in 2016 exports from the region’s agri-food value chain amounted to around €7 billion (AUD$10.3 billion). By comparison, Victoria’s total food and fibre exports for 2016-17 were valued at AUD$12.8 billion.
Emilia-Romagna’s agri-food value chain as a whole enjoyed increasing export figures during the period from 2008 to 2016 (+32.8%), showing good resilience during the country’s economic crisis.
In the first half of 2018 wine exports from Emilia Romagna were valued at €149 million (AUD$232 million). Victoria’s total wine exports for 2017-18 were valued at AUD $200 million.
The most export-oriented sectors are meat and meat-based products, other produce, agricultural and forestry machinery and dairy products; together, these sectors represent 57.7% of total exports.
Below are just some of the reasons for Emilia-Romagna’s export success
Emilia-Romagna was the first Italian region to adopt specific rules regarding the production of quality-controlled products, as well as being the first to adopt a law on food traceability, making it a region that specialises not only in producing culinary treasures, but also food processing machinery.
Central to the success of Emilia Romagna’s agri-food export strategy is a reputation of high quality thanks to its centuries-old traditions and dedication to quality and excellence. This heritage is certified by the European Union through a series of geographical indications that include PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) and PGI (Protected Geographic Origin).
PDO and PGI are aimed at encouraging a diverse agricultural production, protecting product names from misuse and imitation and aiding consumers by giving them the information they need concerning the specific character of products in the marketplace.
PDO is awarded to products of excellence that express a close tie to its territory of origin. The PDO recognizes agricultural products and foodstuffs which are produced, processed and prepared in a given geographical area recognizing production methods. PGI is awarded to agricultural products and foodstuffs closely linked to the geographical area. At least one of the stages of production, processing or preparation takes place in the area.
Forged by the coming together of quality, know-how and the territory itself, come unrivalled PDO and PGI products: exquisite flavours, and unrepeatable sensory experiences. Emilia-Romagna boasts 44 PDO and PGI products.
Unique local products, such as the world-famous Parmesan from Parma and Reggio Emilia, Modena’s balsamic vinegar, cured Parma ham, Grana Padano cheese and a range of other products of excellence are the items that form the culinary treasure map of Emilia-Romagna.
To view a large version of the map click here:
Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC)
Denominazione di Origine Controllata or DOC is the designation of a wine and/or food product given by the Italian government to ensure quality and authenticity. It is a system which was introduced in 1963 to protect both the producer and consumer.
Within the DOC system exists four rankings of quality. The highest being DOCG and the second DOC. This Denominazione di Origine Controllata ensures that the product, whether wine or food, was produced in said region and under traditional and quality restrictions.
Chef to Chef
Food excellence is also nurtured through specific educational institutions, including ALMA, Italy’s most prestigious cookery training school, a large number of high-schools across the region specialising in hospitality and catering and ‘Chef to Chef’, an association grouping together over 50 chefs and set up to promote evolution in regional cuisine and its national and international reputation.
An agricultural knowledge system has been developed to facilitate dialogue between agricultural practice and research in the region of Emilia-Romagna. The system develops based on a cyclic structure, pursuing production innovation through an intersectoral approach capable of integrating the entire innovation chain, both on the regional territory and at an international level.
Thanks to specific coordination tools, the agricultural knowledge system produces systemic knowledge, facilitating and constantly fuelling dialogue between the main stakeholders in the agriculture sector, with increasing focus on product quality, consumer health and environmental protection.
In the region’s meat and dairy PDO and PGI products, the microbiological threat is checked starting with raw materials, with the requirements for specific quality and health and safety characteristics and lengthy curing or ripening processes.
In 2017, there were 5,555 organic farm businesses operating in the sector, a 10% increase and with a 13.5% rise in the total area under organic crops, making the region the leader in northern Italy. A total of 13% of the region’s agricultural land is organically farmed, with an impressive number of farms run by young farmers.
The Pleasures of Food on Display in 19 Museums
19 museums dedicated to some of the most well-known treasures in Emilia-Romagna tell their story, explain their complex and fascinating production processes and provide interesting information. It’s an innovative approach to tourism while maintaining and unveiling a region’s culture through its traditional products. Visitors in these temples of flavour are guided by tales, stories, unpublished photos and tasting. They travel on a journey to discover products such as Parmigiano Reggiano, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena, Prosciutto di Parma, Salame Felino, Formaggio di Fossa cheese, salt from Cervia, oil from Brisighella, chestnuts from Castel del Rio, eels from Comacchio (which apparently can be cooked in 48 different ways), Tigella (typical local bread), bread from Ferrara, Lambrusco wine, honey, fruit, potatoes and tomatoes.
These special museums also include Casa Artusi in Forlimpopoli, the first food and wine cultural centre dedicated to Italian home cooking, and the Enoteca Regionale di Dozza, a true wine library that pays homage to Emilia-Romagna’s red and white wines.
Fico Eataly World
Fico Eataly World – the largest food park in the world – opened in Bologna in November 2017. In its first year it achieved 2.8 million visitors and €50 million turnover.
The park includes:
- 6 walk-through and interactive multimedia carousels dedicated to the extraordinary story of Man and Fire, Earth, Sea, Animals, Bottled Goods, and Future.
- 40+ places to eat the best Italian dishes.
- 100,000 sq metres to explore – find the best venues for corporate events, conferences, workshops, team building programs, and multi-purpose spaces to host food-themed meetings.
- 100+ traditional shops.
For more information on FICO Eataly World visit https://www.eatalyworld.it/en/
For more information on the Emilia-Romagno region visit https://www.regione.emilia-romagna.it/en/agriculture-and-food