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The Country of Wine, Macaroni and Cheese

Local agricultural producers make tens of billions of dollars on the world-wide love of the Italian cuisine.

Modern Italy is a highly developed postindustrial country. Agriculture accounts for only but 3 percent of its GNP. However, in terms of absolute figures that 3 percent is worth $40 billion. If this figure is added to the value of the food processing industry products, it would appear that Italy annually produces food worth about $100 million. A large share of that, nearly 40 percent, is exported to over 100 countries. The number of people occupied in the industry is no more than, 350,000, and the number of companies employing, them is 30,000! Despite a gradual process of merging, the sector is dominated by entities with a maximum of, 20 employees, working with various producer associations. However several very large companies do exist, for example Parmalat, which has a $6 billion turnover.

Although agriculture in Italy is highly diversified, unlike in some other developed countries, the leading, role in the sector belongs to crop production instead of cattle breeding, due to environmental conditions. This has a large effect on what agricultural products Italy. exports, like olive oil, wine, macaroni, juices, canned fruit , and vegetables, citrus fruit, flowers, nuts, and tobacco. The country annually harvests over 14 million tons of, vegetables and 16 million tons of fruit of which over 3 million tons are citrus fruit. In terms of the fruit and vegetables harvests Italy is the leading exporter in Europe, while in terms of citrus fruit and olives it is second only to Spain. In addition, Italy, (although yielding this place, to France some years), is the world's leading producer of, grapes and grape products. Italy annually produces 6.4 billion liters of wine, 40 percent of which is exported. The major buyers of Italian agricultural products are Germany, France, England and the United States.

The indisputable leader among Italian agricultural exports is wine (worth nearly $3 billion every year). In the territory of Italy there are at least 286 wine-making regions, producing over 950 types of vines: white (bianco), red (rosso), pink (rosate), sparkling (spumante) and fortified (liquoroso). A large portion of Italian wines are produced by wine-makers in Piedmont, Tuscany, Umbria, Friuli, and Veneto. Thanks to the rich wine making traditions and the high quality of the product some of the regional names of Italian wines, for example Chianti, Giordano, Gancia, Soave, Asti, Bardolino have become world famous.

The second-largest export of the Italian food processing industry is macaroni (worth $1.5 billion). According to some the appearance of macaroni in Italy was accredited to Marco Polo, who allegedly brought it from China in 1292, however modern historians affirm that noodles dried in the sun were used as early as in ancient times. During past centuries the country has developed over 300 macaroni recipes varying both in ingredients composition and in appearance, and the Italian word entered all languages of the world.

Although the majority of the most famous Italian products are of vegetable origin, Italy is also famous for its cheese. Production of cheese started in Italy as early as in the Roman Empire, however Italian cheese makers were famous during the Renaissance, when Italian cheese began to be exported to other European countries. Cheese making is nearly as diverse as wine making — Italy produces about 400 types of cheese, produced under traditional recipes of each particular region. The largest share of cheese products are made in the northern regions of the country. The same as in wine making, cheese dairies are usually family firms which unite into consortiums to sell their goods. Thanks to the expansion of the Italian cuisine, extensively using cheese to cook dozens of dishes, many of the Italian traditional types of cheese — Mozarella, Parmesan (Parmigiano), Gorgonzola, Ricotta, Ragusano have earned worldwide fame.

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