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Italian Farmers Set Up Holding Company For Trading

Italian farmers have joined forces to set up a national holding company for trading in cereals and other agricultural business to overcome economic crisis together, executives of the new company said Oct. 16.

The holding company, Consorzi Agrari d’Italia, unites 23 agricultural consortia representing nearly one-third of Italian farms. It accounts for 20 per cent of cereal production in Italy and will have revenues of three billion euros ($4.5 billion) a year, they told a news conference.

“It is a very important, historical moment for Italian agriculture. We are living in difficult times … and the will to consolidate to overcome crisis has prevailed,” said Luigi Gruppi, chairman of supervisory council of the new company.

Unlike in many European countries, small farms dominate Italian agriculture. There were 1.6 million family-run farms, or 94 per cent of the total, in Italy in 2007 with an average farm size of 7.6 hectares (18.78 acres), according to Italy’s statistics agency ISTAT.

The new holding firm would aim to boost farmers’ clout in three main business areas: agricultural production, processing of agricultural products and their sales, Gruppi said.

The company would focus in particular on trading of wheat, maize, other cereals and agricultural commodities, said Pierluigi Guarise, chairman of its management council.

He declined to give more details, saying a business plan would be presented in about a month.

The holding company would run about 1,200 sales points for agricultural products and would set up a network of technical and financial services for farmers, including loans and insurance, across Italy, Guarise said.

It would also be active in renewable energy, he said.

The holding company would control four operating companies running trading, management of sales points, processing industry and real estate management, Italy’s biggest farmers’ association Coldiretti said in a statement presenting the new company.

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