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Report from Italy - January 2003

written by Luigi Fenati, committee member



2002 for Italian farmers has been a very wet year, with very hot June and a mild and rainy summer (in my area 1000 mm of rain till 31.12.02).



For the second year, we got a humid spring with very big problems about diseases. 2002 was characterised by high pressure of Fusarium on the ear. So we got production between 4 ton and 6 tons with 72/76 hcl specific weight. The problem was that against Fusarium fungicides as Tebuconazolo are quite useless because it's very difficult to individuate the exact moment in which the fungus enters into the ear. So a bad production, but prices began to be good in October and are still quite good: at the moment about EUR  130/ton for normal wheat and EUR  155/ton for hard wheat.


Sugar beet

Because of the very high rainfall, sugar contents were very low: from 12 to 14 degree paid about EUR 27 to 36 per ton. Production was between 45 tons/ha in the beginning to 75tons/ha in the end. It was a very big problem for sugar factories because they had to work a lot of roots to get an economic daily production of sugar and there was also a very high content of soil together with beets. Even if the production was quite down , we begin to enjoy the quality premium: We receive some money more per ton if we deliver to the factory with low soil contents and a pure sugar content. For example, for me this premium was a 6% more .



It's becoming the most important crop for north Italian farms: very high yields and the best hectar compensation. In my area productions have gone from 9 to 12 tons/ha of dried corn at a medium price of EUR 110/120 per ton and a compensation of about 500 EUR. 2002,corn production  was a little problematic all over Europe and now prices are about 120/130 per ton.



Because of the big reduction of compensation, the surfaces decreased to 50% in respect of the last years. From EUR 800/ha the UE pushed down to EUR 325/ha. You all know the EU import of soybean from all over the world is about 23 million tons faced to a EU production of about 1 ml. tons. Probably, all the import is OGM: This means that Mr. Fischler would be a very good Health Minister, because he cares so much of the European health (only OGM free production in EU), but he doesn't fight so much for the EU production.



As everywhere in Europe, weather has created a lot of problems to potato harvest. In the beginning of the season, the product was stopped by the June high temperature and with July rains, it made a second growth with a lot of problems about quality. Then it began raining and everything was a problem. Anyway, yield has been normal, with some problem in quality. "Fortunately", market was very bad since the beginning and at the moment we hope to close at 80 cents for kg: Farmers looses money. Our Italian traders, import potatoes from France (many thanks to French guys!) at better prices delivered here in Bologna (but how can you earn money at that prices?).

Anyway, in Italy the farmers situation is very critical. Banks begin to say that agriculture is a sector on risk to manage with very care. The farmers who invested into the farm, have loan to pay because the modernisation of the farm asks a lot of money; the farmers who didn't invest , have no modern farms and with the big down of prices, have no way to reduce costs. I think that the situation is bad everywhere in EU, and the problem is always that we are not able to commercialise by our own our products. But this is a question we discuss continuously.

All the best  and good luck for the new farm year!