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16/06/2010

Italian Parmigiano Reggiano: an inspiration for Russian cheese

Representatives from the Russian dairy industry visited Italy to see how geographical indication is used by Italian dairy producers to boost sales of local cheeses. The tour, organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), took place from 23–27 May 2010 in the city of Reggio Emilia. Representatives of the Russian Ministry of Agriculture, the agricultural administration of the Altay region and the Russian Dairy Union, as well as Altay cheese producers, met with the key stakeholders dealing with dairy products and geographical indications in Italy ranging from Italian Ministry of Agriculture representatives to cheese producers and members of the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium.

Tour participants were introduced to the EU concept of protected geographical indication (PGI) and protected designation of origin (PDO) using as an example the case of the registered name of Parmigiano Reggiano. Only cheese produced in a limited number of provinces may use the label of Parmiggiano Reggiano. This collective brand protection benefits both producers by commending higher prices and consumers by guaranteeing origin and a specific quality. The Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium, the producers association in charge of the protection of the Parmigiano Reggiano brand, presented the code of practice to which the products have to conform in order to use the registered name. The delegation also studied the cheese production process, the packaging and the certification procedures.

In the Russian Federation, cheese is a fast growing market product. With cheese consumption rapidly increasing, cheese imports are on the rise. In addition, the production of local full-fat cheeses has also more than doubled in the last 10 years, to reach 429,900 tonnes. Russian cheese producers are trying to find ways to strengthen the marketing of traditional products. Developing collective brands for existing traditional cheeses, linking them to designated regions of origin and protecting them as a geographical indication is a route that Russian producers want to explore. As with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, Altay cheese has unique characteristics related to local climatic conditions and the territory where it is produced. Given the particular flavour of the milk and the traditional recipes, it is a natural candidate for denomination of origin status. For the Russian cheese producers who visited Italy, studying the marketing of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese through the use of PDO status helped them evaluate how, in some regions of the Russian Federation, the PDO approach could be a way to add value to cheese products.

Subsequent to the tour, the Russian Dairy Union, in collaboration with FAO, will organize a workshop in Moscow next July to present the main findings of a report prepared under the FAO/EBRD partnership programme on the Russian Dairy Sector which will cover also geographical indications.

Please click here for meeting documentation and for the study tour slide show.