Italy is Europe’s top rice producer. Exports are growing thanks to small-scale farmers growing premium rice varieties which are popular with health conscious connoisseurs.
“It’s considered a chic product for people who have money,” said Sandro Guerrini, who farms 80 hectares with his three brothers on a farm started by their grandparents.
Their production is tiny, just 400 kilogrammes a year, but the variety that they grow commands a far higher price due to its EU quality assurance label.
The main export market in Europe is Britain;45,718 tonnes sold last year compared to 32,074 the year before. Exports outside the European Union rose to 119,510 tonnes last year from 100,053 tonnes the previous year.
They increased by 139 percent to Turkey – the biggest market for Italian rice – and by 47 percent to Russia.
Rice sold to China was just 25 tonnes, a symbolic amount in a market seen as having a lot of potential for Italy.