Giuliano Marchesin, Director of Consorzio Italia Zootecnica: 'We need an 'Italian Seal of Quality' to protect customers and revive consumption.' In the meantime, the Veneto Region will inaugurate the 'Verified Quality' brand in September.
The Veneto is the leading Italian beef production region, with 950 companies and 420,000 head of cattle, for a value of more than 420 million euros. Among the provinces, Verona takes the lead with 29%, followed by Padua (25%), Treviso (20%), Vicenza (12%), while Venice, Rovigo and Belluno share the remaining 14%. Despite this leadership, the meat served in Veneto restaurants is 80% imported, as suggested by Consorzio Italia Zootecnica.
The Director of the Consortium, Giuliano Marchesin, announced these facts during the first stop-off for the Eurocarne 2015 Road Show, held today in Legnaro, near Padua, c/o the head offices of Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie. An approach dedicated to various meat sectors as part of the run-up to the 26th edition of Eurocarne scheduled in Verona 10-13 May 2015; other events are scheduled on 2 July in Reggio Emilia (focus on pig breeding) and 9 July in Milan (focus of meat trends and consumption in relation to distribution channels).
Beef cattle farming in the Veneto Region leads the sector in Italy but restaurants serve imported meat. This contradiction is the direct result of the uncertainty bogging down the application of the new Common Agricultural Policy (Cap) 2020 in the beef industry, not to mention the fact that importing meat is still the easiest solution - whereby 50% of what meat served on Italian tables comes from abroad. In this context, there has been a continual reduction in breeding centres, cattle stalls and output: given all these doubts, Italian animal farmers stock fewer heads to limit possible losses, with the result that in 2013 the Veneto lost 10% of its livestock.
Nor has the application of the new CAP, implemented in Italy by the Ministry for Agricultural Policies and the Regions, helped matters. 'As of 2015, farmers will receive 50% of direct payments. A cut that also penalises companies that own less land, since the ceiling for financial aid will not be calculated on the number of cattle but on the area the farm,' said Giuliano Marchesin, the Guest Speaker at the Eurocarne 2015 Road Show in Legnaro. “The risk is that funds will be dispersed in a thousand trickles, not the least since the minimum sum of 250 euros (against 400 euros required by breeders) for the presentation of applications for the CAP contributions simply multiplied the number of requests: 20,000 in the Veneto alone.'
The leitmotif is always the same: whichever way one pulls, the coverage is shorter than ever and forecasts for 2015 are far from comforting: requests for contributions in the Italian livestock sector amounted to 169 million euros, compared to 66 million euros which will be actually disbursed in the form of bonuses coupled to livestock. Such figures mean an uphill road ahead for meat production in the Veneto region.
Giuliano Marchesin, who presented the pillars of the National Beef Plan in Legnaro today, is convinced of this outlook. 'If we do not implement the actions designed by livestock farmers and shared by the overall production chain before the end of 2014,' he explained to the Eurocarne Observatory, 'alongside the conventional market characterized by 'anonymous meat', this will truly be the end of the sector.' This is behind the livestock farmers' proposal to set up a quality label identifying 100% Made in Italy meat to protect consumers and encourage consumption.
'The 'Italian Seal' which we have ask the Ministry to register,' Marchesin continued, 'would clearly identify cattle reared in accordance with regulations recognised by the National Livestock Quality System.' The Veneto Region is leading the way in this regard, with the official launch of the 'Verified Quality' brand in September that has already received the go-ahead from the Regional Government.
As regards the 'Italian Seal' and its promotion among consumers, finance for the initiative, Marchesin pointed out, could be made available by players in the supply chain itself thanks to inter-profession recognition of beef: 'There is talk of a levy in the order of a few thousandths of a euro for each kilo of meat.'
Achieving this, however, means that the entire sector linked with livestock farming - production, processing and distribution - must decide to work as a team. An opportunity to take stock of the situation will undoubtedly be provided by Eurocarne, since the international show at Veronafiere aims to involve all the players in every area of the sector: Italian and foreign breeding associations, mediation and import-export services, the meat industry and processing sector, trade associations and consortia, product consortia, large retailers, wholesalers and specialist outlets.
Additional aid for the Italian Seal project in terms of traceability and clarity in product communications may well arrive from modern packaging, as explained this morning by Antioco Mei, business development manager with Sealed Air, a multinational leader in the meat packaging industry: 'Today, in the large-scale retail distribution, 85% of meat sales focuses on packaged products and only 15% for cuts sold over the counter, which is no longer the fulcrum but a showcase. Modern packaging is therefore essential for food safety and communications, for consumer and the industry alike.'
Source: Press Service Eurocarne-Veronafiere