At the time of writing, Italy has the highest number of infections and deaths to coronavirus in Europe. Globally, the country is second only to China. Echoing the wartime words of Britain’s Sir Winston Churchill, Italian Prime Minister has described the current situation as the country’s ‘darkest hour’.
In a bid to halt the spread of the virus, stringent measures have been taken by the government to effectively place the entire country under quarantine. Public gatherings have been banned, schools and universities closed, and travel (both internal and external) severely restricted. As of today (12th March) all but the most essential business functions have been suspended (bars, pubs, and restaurants are closed, whilst supermarkets and certain factories remain open).
All of this disruption, unsurprisingly, is having a negative effect on Italian exports. Whilst no accurate figures can be relied on at this time, it’s widely expected that Italy’s economy will slide back into recession, in part due to reduced export volume.
Food exports and epidemics
For the food industry, it’s important to highlight a couple of issues. Firstly, Italian producers are continuing to maintain a steady output despite challenging circumstances. High automation across product categories (including dried pasta, olive oil, and tinned pulses) has negated the effects of a weakened workforce (as many employees choose to self-isolate).
The Italian government has also offered its assistance to maintain food production. Giuseppe Conte announced on 11th March that ‘The activities of the livestock, agricultural, and food production sectors will be safeguarded (in terms of health and safety laws), including all goods and services offered.’
Buyers should, however, expect delays in the fulfilment of their orders. Whilst production remains relatively stable, transportation is currently proving more difficult than usual. Alongside shortages in drivers, trucks, and containers, traffic leaving Italy is taking longer than usual due to emergency regulations on movement and stricter checks at borders.
At a wider level, rest assured that food imports from Italy are entirely safe to consume. Certain countries and companies have requested that a new ‘virus-free’ certification be added to products where the epidemic is most prevalent. This is entirely unnecessary. Although studies are being conducted into how the virus is transmitted, there are no known cases of transmission through imported goods. The most common mode of transmission is through contaminated droplets of saliva when in close contact with an infected individual.
This is a difficult period for Italy, but not impossibly so. For European buyers, supply chains for most food products will remain stable but for some short delays. As ever, though, this is a fluid situation and conditions can change overnight. The most important thing is to maintain communication with trusted Italian partners.
If you’re currently experiencing supply problems for a particular Italian food product, get in contact with the Italian Food Experts. With our extensive network of Italian producers, we’ll be able to help you source whatever you’re looking for.