Be­fore tar­iffs re­ally grate, a rush on Parme­san

The Morning Call - - BUSINESS CYCLE - By Colleen Barry

MI­LAN — U.S. con­sumers who ap­pre­ci­ate the tang of aged Ital­ian Parme­san cheese as an aper­i­tif or atop their fa­vorite pasta dish are stock­ing up ahead of next week’s tar­iff hike and as dairy pro­duc­ers in the two coun­tries square off.

The Ital­ian agri­cul­tural lobby Coldiretti said Fri­day that sales of both Parmi­giano Reg­giano and Grana Padano, aged cheeses with a dis­tinc­tive gran­u­lar qual­ity that are de­fined by their ter­ri­tory of ori­gin, have sky­rock­eted in the United States by 220% since the higher tar­iffs were an­nounced one week ago.

The new tar­iffs — up from $2.15 per kilo­gram to around $6 a kilo­gram — take ef­fect Oct. 18. Parme­san cheese is on a long list of EU prod­ucts tar­geted by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion for re­tal­ia­tory tar­iffs ap­proved by the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion for il­le­gal EU sub­si­dies to avi­a­tion gi­ant Air­bus.

Coldiretti says Amer­i­can con­sumers as a re­sult will pay over $45 a kilo­gram, in­stead of $40 — which is ex­pected to hurt sales in the U.S., the sec­ond­largest ex­port mar­ket af­ter France.

Nicola Bertinelli, pres­i­dent of the Parmi­giano Reg­giano cheese con­sor­tium, said the tar­iffs threaten the eco­nomic health of 330 small dairy pro­duc­ers around Parma and the 50,000 peo­ple who work in the sup­ply chain.

“I be­lieve that Europe has un­der­stood that this is a com­mer­cial at­tack,” Bertinelli said.

The U.S. Na­tional Milk Pro­duc­ers Fed­er­a­tion has wel­comed the tar­iffs, say­ing U.S. pro­duc­ers have been blocked from sell­ing their “com­mon name” Parme­san in Europe, con­tribut­ing to a $1.6 bil­lion dairy trade deficit with the EU.

The milk pro­duc­ers’ lobby said the use of “geo­graphic in­di­ca­tion,” like Parmi­giano Reg­giano, has been “abused” to limit com­pe­ti­tion of cheese im­ports from the United States into the EU.


A worker cre­ates wheels of Parme­san Reg­giano cheese in No­ceto, near Parma, Italy, last week.

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