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Not grate news for Parmigiano lovers

Getprev3 If Parmigiano-Reggiano is truly the king of cheese, why is it that you can usually buy it for about the same price as a run-of-the-mill California goat cheese? Actually, that’s exactly what the folks in Parma want to know. Well, really, they say they know why -- what they want to know is what the Italian government is going to do about it.

As a result, according to a story from the ANSA news service, Tuesday the Italian government approved a plan allowing cheese makers to withdraw from the market 100,000 wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano and its cousin Grana Padano in an effort to increase demand and raise prices....

...The problem, according to an earlier story on the Reggio2000 website, is that big international supermarket corporations, which now buy 70% of all Parmigiano-Reggiano, have been bidding down the price of the cheese so aggressively that wholesale prices have now fallen below the cost of making it. (Of course, they acknowledge, the fact that cheese makers have increased production by more than 10% in the last eight years might also have something to do with it, hence the fix.)

Cheese makers say that with rising costs for everything from milk to electricity, it now costs 8 to 8 1/2 euros to make a kilogram of Parmigiano-Reggiano, while a four-year skid for wholesale prices has resulted in a current bid of 7 to 7 1/2 euros per kilogram.

-- Russ Parsons

Photo of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese maker from Associated Press

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simple economics, if you push the price of something too far, the substitutes will look more attractive. While parmigiano is the king of cheeses, the food world can easily shift gears to something more reasonable and almost as delicious in no time. Especially in this market, they should be loath to increase prices beyond what consumers can bear or else they will lose sales volumes to competition (i.e. reggianito, aged gouda, aged manchego, pretty much anything that ages well etc.)

Maybe California's stone fruit growers should think about doing the same thing.


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