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Governo Italiano

Speech by the Hon. Minister at the celebration of the Second Week of Italian Cuisine in the World – Villa Madama, 10 November 2017



Speech by the Hon. Minister at the celebration of the Second Week of Italian Cuisine in the World – Villa Madama, 10 November 2017

Deputy Minister Olivero,

Undersecretary Bianchi,

President Scannavini, (President ICE-Agency)

President Scordamaglia, (President of Federalimentare)

Professor Miravalle, (Univ. degli Studi di Milano)

Ms Cristina Bowerman, (President of the Association of Italian Ambassadors of Taste)

Your Excellencies the Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,  

Allow me to address you a warm welcome to Villa Madama and to thank all those who cooperated with us to organise this Second Edition of the Italian Week in the World. It is an initiative that puts our economic diplomacy at the service of the excellence of Italian cuisine and products and of the wealth that they produce for Italy around the world.  

The Italian agro-food sector is worth more than 132 billion euros. Its exports amount to almost 40 billion. And, with the Second Edition of the Italian Week in the World, we want to contribute to achieving the 50-billion agro-food export target by 2020. It is an ambitious goal but that should not scare a Country such as ours: the “agro-food superpower” already holds many records in the food industry worldwide.

We have 68 products on the “podium” of the agro-food products most widely sold in the world. According to the Symbola Foundation (that since 2005 promotes a quality-oriented model of development), 16 products of our agro-food industry are absolute leaders in the world and another 52 are second or third. 

The recipe of our success lies in the quality-oriented development model of our enterprises – in which local traditions and communities merge to produce innovation, research, culture and design – but also in the protection of our “distinctive” products: like the 292 agro-foods with protected designations and the 523 wines certified as PDO/PGI/PSR (produced in a specified region). Furthermore, Italy is leader in Europe for number of organic farms and second for agricultural land area dedicated to this very high-quality-oriented sector.

And since we are talking about diplomacy and the agro-food sector, allow me to recall that Count Camillo Benso di Cavour, in addition to having a knack for diplomacy, was also an excellent farmer. And he was so convinced of the diplomatic virtues of an excellent dinner and a good bottle of wine that, when one of his diplomats left for a foreign capital, he made sure that he was carrying a bottle of Barolo in his baggage. 

Exactly: this is in perfect sync with the central issue of the Second Week of Italian Cuisine, which is the combined effect of “high-quality cuisine and wine”. I too, on my missions abroad, have had the opportunity of personally appreciating the extent to which Italian Ambassadors engage in promoting our cuisine and our wines in the world. But, in the past, it was a type of activity that Ambassadors performed within the confines of their own Residences, while now Ambassadors are called on to promote Italian cuisine and wine in every corner of the Country to which they are accredited. In other words: it is no longer a niche activity, carried out with a selected group of clients. But it is a broad Country-wide Strategy, promoted in close cooperation with the private sector, targeted on the large segments of consumers that we still need to conquer.  

And in the wine-making sector, Italy not only holds the world record of protected designations but since 2015, is also the world’s largest wine producer. Our goal must be to better place Italian food and wine, disseminating information on local territories, traditions and high-quality culinary itineraries. These are issues on which we have been working and will continue to work on persistently together with the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism during the Year of Italian Cuisine 2018.  

Allow me to tell you another curious anecdote that concerns one of the founding fathers of the United States: Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, was convinced that high-quality farming and a wholesome diet were vital for the future of his young Country. When he was serving as a diplomat Paris (1785-1789), he went to Italy to look for the precious seeds of the rice plant. The laws in force at the time banned seed exports. So, after trying several options, he decided to fill his pockets with seeds, which he then brought all the way to Charleston, in South Carolina, where he started a new production.

Jefferson’s goal was to assure both food security and food safety in his Country. Italy for him was an example to follow. And it is no coincidence that our Country still now remains at the top of global food security rankings, with a percentage of chemical residues in agricultural products 5 times lower than the European average and almost 20 times lower than the average of non-EU countries.  

At the beginning of this year, Bloomberg defined Italians the healthiest people in the world. Bloomberg’s ranking – which places us first among 163 Countries – considers average life expectancy as well as many other factors, such as nutrition. Because the state of health of a Nation is not only determined by its wealth but also, as we well know, by its lifestyle, including its eating habits: our Mediterranean diet is on UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list. 

This year, the Week of Italian Cuisine will offer an opportunity to promote two new and important Italian candidacies for UNESCO: the art of Neapolitan pizza makers, which will be voted in a couple of weeks in Seoul; and the landscape of the hills of Conegliano Valdobbiadene, famous for their Prosecco wine, which will be a candidate for next year.   

Similarly, as we should never forget the origin of these products, let me conclude by recalling the origin of this project. The Week of Italian Cuisine came out of the Expo Milano 2015, of the values that we disseminated in the world with the Milan Charter and the Protocol of Understanding between the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies and the Ministry of Education, University and Research, to join forces in promoting together high-quality Italian cuisine and our magnificent regions abroad.  

I underscore “together” because our success is due to close teamwork that has extended well beyond the institutional scope to embrace trade associations, the network of chambers of commerce and industry, cooking schools and the great number of excellent chefs and sommeliers – who are significantly represented here tonight – and the private sector. All those who have at heart the objective of upgrading the quality of Italian catering abroad, linking culinary traditions to the use of authentically Italian agro-food products. 

One of the priorities of Italy’s economic diplomacy is to protect the “Italian agro-food trademark”: we are committed to defending our designations of geographic origin; to combating the Italian sounding phenomenon and the food traffic light system; and to protecting companies’ intellectual and industrial property in this sector.

As it happened last year, our cuisine will also be told through cultural events and initiatives: art and design exhibitions, concerts and film screenings, in the spirit of the “Italian Way of Life”, of our “Brand Italy strategy”, which integrates all the activities aimed at promoting the distinctive traits of the Italian lifestyle and the many facets of Made-in-Italy products.  

We intend to organise more than 1,000 events in over 100 Countries through our network of Embassies, Consulates and Cultural Institutes: a network that multiplies the Country’s integrated action and amplifies the international return of our Country, in terms of economic growth and image.  

I feel I can say that our mission is genuinely global. Because all these initiatives indicate that our Country’s Government, Institutions, civil society and private sector strongly feel the responsibility of joining efforts to increase food security and to assure the ecological balance of the land.  

This is a responsibility that extends far beyond our national borders. It is the responsibility of a Country, as Alcide De Gasperi defined it, that feels it is an integral part of humanity; of a Country that focuses its commitment for and deep culture of food on assuring food security and that malnutrition might one day – in the not too distant future – stop recurring in the history of future generations. 

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