Italian agriculture cooperative Coldiretti says that the Italian mafia has managed to infiltrate the agriculture and food industry in the country, earning more than €16 billion in 2015.
A study published by Coldiretti, as well as Euripes and the Observatory for Agri-food Crime, reveals that organised criminal groups are exploiting ongoing economic difficulties in the country to take control of agricultural land and enterprises.
According to Coldiretti director, Roberto Moncalvo, the gangs “are damaging the image of Italian food in the world and put at risk both the health of consumers and the environment".
By forging the produces of well known Italian food brands, they also destroy the “business and economic fabric of many honourable companies”, he added.
The study found that the impact of these criminal groups is present in all parts of the country, but it is particularly strong in their traditional southern bastions, such as Sicily.
The report alleges that criminals have completely taken over the agriculture sector in Ragusa, known for its year-round tomato production. Only four of the 102 Italian provinces have not shown any signs of illegal activities in the agricultural sector.
Coldiretti says that organised crime gangs profit in various ways, from counterfeiting recognized products, such as olive oil and mozzarella cheese, to the theft of entire herds of animals. Their presence is also felt in distribution and sales networks, which has led to price increases for consumers.
In fact, the higher prices of fruits and vegetables in the supply chain are the result of not only monopolies, but also distortions and speculation due to mafia infiltration in the brokerage and transport activities.
The cooperative says that the sectors most affected by fraud are catering, meat and flour, bread and pasta.
Coldiretti has urged the Italian Government to strengthen the legal framework for the defense of farmers from mafia gangs, pointing out that the sector could generate much more wealth if were to get rid of organized crime.
© 2016 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest retail news. Article by Branislav Pekic. To subscribe to ESM: The European Supermarket Magazine, click here.