Made in Italy is flying, less and less Italian

Made in Italy, but not really. On April 15th we celebrate the sector which last year exceeded 21 billion euros with a day (or rather a week) of initiatives. But in the agri-food sector, the invisible workforce that plays an important and irreplaceable role is 50% made up of foreign workers, mostly undeclared.

Exports of Italian products in 2023 grew by 8% compared to 2022, over 21 billion euros. The data, on the eve of the new day created by the government, were released by the Italian Food Union (based on Istat data on foreign trade 2023) which brings together 530 Italian industries with over 900 brands in the food world and 20 sectors. Italy is in first place in Europe for the value of food production and number of employed people. 3 billion pasta dishes, 55 billion cups of coffee, 1 billion kilograms of sweets, 345 thousand tons of frozen foods were brought into the world. The positive sign is present in all the various sectors: broths, soups, sauces and gravies (+20.7%), chips and snacks (+22.4%), jams and fruit preserves (+11.2 %), bakery products (+13.2%), bakery products (+12.7%), vegetables in vinegar, brine, oil and others (+12.6%) and food supplements (+10%).

These are the numbers of a thriving sector. But, looking in particular at Made in Italy agri-food, an interesting fact emerges. 600 billion in turnover and 64 billion in exports in 2023 with over 50% of foreign labor to support and bring Italian agri-food products to the world. Official data speak of 362 thousand immigrant workers covering 31.7% of the registered working days. But there is an invisible army of undeclared work done by immigrants and fictitious registrations. And so the real numbers are much higher and exceed 50% according to the “Made in Immigritaly” report presented by the Fai-Cisl. A transversal situation throughout the country: from Parmigiano Reggiano produced thanks to the fundamental contribution of Indian workers to tomatoes and citrus fruits that come from Southern Italy. And in many companies in the meat sector, foreign workers even exceed 50% of the employees. Migrant labor comes mainly from Romania, Morocco, India, Albani and Senegal. The latter have doubled over the years. Among the nine cases studied, Puglia stands out, with 157 thousand foreign workers in agriculture. The risk of exploitation of immigrant labor is obviously high: almost half of the judicial measures and investigations carried out between 2017 and 2021 concerned work in the fields. And they are also increasing in the Centre-North. Obviously gangmastering but also new forms of illegal contracting and subcontracting. “The data demonstrate the essential nature of the immigrant contribution to Made in Italy. We need to move away from the banalization of the migration phenomenon as an invasion” – commented Onofrio Rota, general secretary of the Fai-Cisl.

In addition to foreign workers there are also foreign agricultural entrepreneurs. There are 28 thousand, 3% of the total. Six out of ten come from non-EU countries and 43% are female entrepreneurs.

Therefore, on April 15th, when celebrating Made in Italy, we must remember the entire sector and all the protagonists of a 21 billion euro success.