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Sunday 9 May 2021

Network Agriculture at the center of the recovery: Italy will understand this late

Agriculture at the center of the recovery: Italy will understand it late

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The Covid-19 pandemic should have taught everyone what the priorities are, what the essential areas of life for a nation and society are: health, food, safety, water, energy and telecommunication services.

The applause for the doctors, nurses, pharmacists and health workers who managed the coronavirus emergency on the ground is a must. To all of them we owe respect and gratitude.

The same applause should be given to those who have guaranteed all the other essential services in recent weeks, but I have never heard praise and choruses for farmers, food and large-scale retailers, carabinieri and policemen, as well as for the staff of the aqueducts, the energy distribution and telecommunication.

Our gratitude is channeled all the way to the sector where the shortcomings, due to inefficiencies, distortions and cuts, manifest themselves in a dramatic way, enhancing the sense of duty, sometimes the heroism, of the individuals, not towards those sectors that despite a thousand difficulties and risks guarantee a peaceful daily life.

This is why, after the emergency is over, Italian agriculture and agri-food will be forgotten.

You can already see the signs.

The appeals to buy Made in Italy food are launched only by farmers, agricultural associations or by Minister Bellanova. I don't see consumer mobilisations, much less a patriotic pride in the agri-food sector. On the shelves of supermarkets I don't see the Italian product going like hot cakes. Shopping is done as always.

I read the appeals of some agricultural supply chains in difficulty, almost unheard and above all ignored by all media.

The food is there, so why be alarmed about the health of Italian food?

Every now and then I think that if the shelves were empty, we would begin to look at the agricultural and agri-food sector in a different way and maybe even our ruling class would begin to think about the centrality of the sector.

They are already doing this in many other countries. Russia, Ukraine and China, but also other countries, have started to quota, if not completely block, the export of some agricultural commodities. French President Macron himself, who has to deal with a few too many gaps on French shelves, has publicly questioned the possibility of leaving health and food supplies in the hands of third parties.

There is no mention of autarky but of a more prudent, less globalist and mercantilistic management of strategic resources, which will result in political measures to support these sectors, primarily agriculture and agri-food. In other words, states will be faced with the problem of keeping factories in business as active as companies that produce food.

Italy has the advantage that it can already count on a structured agricultural and agri-food system, which has proven to be able to cope well with the Covid-19 crisis, and for this reason I fear that politics will soon be forgotten. It will focus on what didn't work, forgetting how much it worked and which should be supported, in a context that will become even more competitive.

We need to start thinking now how to strengthen our agricultural and agri-food system to make it even more ready to face new emergency situations, in order not to arrive, in front of any Covid, to find empty supermarket shelves.

Then it will not be enough to distribute meal vouchers and the price to pay would become high, perhaps too high.

I hope to be proven wrong but Italy will understand it later.

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