Pasta wars! Italy alleges that the US could send counterfeit pasta to the UK
It's a potential side-effect of the impact of Brexit and it could mean a rise in 'fake' Italian goods in our shops
Pasta. We all love it and we all want it. The staple Italian dish has become a global favourite and it's especially loved in the UK. As a result, we want absolutely loads of it. But, there's a bit of a Brexit-related spanner being thrown in the works. Whilst demand for pasta remains at a high, exports from Italy have fallen due to the impact of the post-Brexit trading environment. Coldiretti (Italy's national farmers' association) reported that exports of products that were made in Italy to the United Kingdom fell by 40% in the first 2 months following Brexit. This included food, appliances, clothing, machinery, metals and "means of transport" (whatever that entails).
Coldiretti had warned at the time that all the complications that Brexit would cause with trade would lead to Italian-made food products appearing less on British shelves and it does seem that they've been right about that. The association has done a bit more number-crunching more recently and stated that pasta imports from Italy to the UK have fallen by 28% during the first 5 months after Brexit, whilst imports of extra virgin olive oil have dropped by 13% and imports of tomato sauce have dropped by 16% during the same period of time. With this new round of calculations, Coldiretti lamented that "with Brexit, the British also abandon the Mediterranean diet". Ouch!
Coldiretti also warned that Brexit-related backups at the UK's borders, delays caused by shortages of truck drivers (something which the British government is currently trying to address by making it easier and more attractive to become an HGV driver) and complications caused by various things (including post-Brexit customs weirdness) have meant that 3.4 billion euros of Italian food exports have been negatively affected. Whichever way you look at things, that's a huge amount of money! It's also pretty worrying news, considering that before Brexit Italy was the UK's fourth-largest trading partner for food and drink. Only Germany, France and the US are bigger trading partners with the UK when it comes to food.
That's not where the food troubles end between Italy and the UK, though. Coldiretti is very worried that, due to a lack of Italian-made products, the UK could become a "trojan horse" for an influx of 'fake' Italian food. The US is apparently a major producer of these counterfeit Italian food products. "The British need to watch out for Italian oil and parmesan with an Italian flag on the label which actually comes from America," Coldiretti's economic officer Lorenzo Bazzana told The Times. "Produce pretending to be Italian is worth €100 billion in sales a year globally, double the real food and drink coming from Italy [...] Before Brexit we could ask the U.K. to crack down on fake Italian foods but now it is out of the EU we cannot, hence our fear things could turn for the worse there."
Will the UK see a kind of pasta war between Italy and the US? It's certainly a crazy situation to think about. It certainly wouldn't be the first time countries have gone into a kind of cold war over food products. Whilst we probably won't be feeling too much of the effects of a potential war over Italian food products right now, it's something that could maybe rear its ugly head in the next few years as post-Brexit trade rules really change how Britain interacts with the rest of the world. Whatever the case may be, it's definitely a development to keep an eye on...