The Italian Almanac

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Pork Strike

The Italian Farmers Association (CIA) on Thursday warned that Italy may soon be in the grip of a national prosciutto shortage after Italian pig farmers confirmed they will be going on strike this weekend. ''Parma ham, San Daniele and Tuscan prosciutto, Piacenza pork neck salami, Brianza, Varzi and Vicenza salami and Italian game salami could shortly disappear from supermarkets and specialist shops and vanish from Italian tables''.

Italian pig farmers faced with spiralling production costs and falling pork prices have been lobbying the government for financial assistance since the beginning of the month. They announced a national strike beginning on June 1 after talks with the agriculture ministry on Wednesday proved unsuccessful. According to the farmers' association, the average price for pork fell 8% over the course of 2007. ''At the same time, the cost of the cereal and oil seeds indispensable for pig rearing has reached dizzy heights''.

In addition to seeing pork chops disappear from Italian tables, the pig farmers' strike has wide implications for the producers of Italy's internationally renowned cold cuts. Crucial to these products' success is their EU Protected Designation of Origin (DOP) status, which, among other things, requires the meat used to be of certified quality and origin. But pig farmers said they will be refusing to ratify DOP certificates.

The current crisis has provoked the greatest unrest in the history of the sector, and pig farmers were thinking of organising a national protest in Rome in the coming weeks. Over 100,000 Italian businesses are involved in pork production, with ham consumption worth around 1.2 billion euros a year and salami around 3.6 billion.