Italy participated in the Expoqueijo Brasil 2021 – International Cheese Awards, the most important cheese competition in Brazil, held a few days ago in Araxà, a city in the Brazilian State of Minas Gerais. The gold medal went to a cheese from the Piedmont region of Italy: Bra Duro DOP, and at the inaugural ceremony – attended by the Italian Consul to Belo Horizonte, Dario Savarese and, among others, the governor of Minas Gerais, Romeu Zema and the Secretary of State for Agriculture, Valentini – the Italian national anthem was played. The Italian flag was the only foreign flag to fly alongside the Brazilian flag on the stage. It was an exciting time for the many descendants of Italian immigrants who met for the occasion.
The winner of the competition, the Italian Bra Duro DOP, produced in the Piedmont region from raw cows’ milk, won out over a total of 811 cheeses enrolled in the competition. Of the 811 cheeses, 550 were produced in Minas Gerais, 213 in other Brazilian states and 48 were international qualities from Italy, Peru, Portugal, Argentina and Switzerland.
The Italian imprint on the event was also significant with regard to organizational aspects: The ONAF (National Organization of Cheese Tasters), based in Italy, collaborated actively in drawing up the regulations and structuring the different categories of cheeses and tasting methods, as well as evaluating the pairing techniques; the organization also spent several weeks training the 150 members of the jury. The Italian contribution was greatly appreciated by the government institutions as well as by the public. The Secretary of State for Agriculture and ONAF are already preparing for the next edition in Brazil, and Brazilian cheeses will also participate in the cheese project “Forme” scheduled for September 2022 in Bergamo.
In his speech, Consul Savarese reminded the audience of the important contribution provided by Italian emigration to the cheese culture of the state and the ways in which dairy products are made, calling attention to the many collaborations ongoing between the Consulate and the Agriculture Secretariat, with the goal of improving production in Brazil using Italian methods and technologies. Governor Zema also pointed out that Minas Gerais is the Brazilian state with the largest artisanal dairy production, renowned all over the world. He added that Minas Gerais is also a leader in Brazil in many other agricultural production sectors (coffee, potatoes, garlic, quince and milk), raising horses and milk cows, as well as in lumber production.
The international competition of Araxà, with its significant Italian interest, marks the success of the work done by the Italian Consulate in Belo Horizonte in recent years, and the close collaboration with the Secretary of Agriculture of Minas Gerais on agrifood production, a sector in which many joint ventures have been undertaken. In particular, in the sector of dairy products, the Consulate has promoted meetings between local producers and Italian cheese experts, with training projects for producers, master cheese-makers and government inspectors, with the goal of exchanging best practices and know-how so as to encourage the acquisition of Italian production technologies.
The next edition of Expoqueijo will be held from August 11 to 14, 2022 also in Araxà.