A rich culinary tradition and world-renowned agricultural output are only a few things associated with Italy, and both perfectly describe the country’s booming agricultural sector and international standing on the global economic stage. Italy has long been a global powerhouse in the world of food and agriculture and thanks to its unique agricultural landscape, the country occupies a role as a key player in the European Union.
Broadly speaking, Italy can be split into two halves, defined by the geographical divide between its northern and southern regions, taking advantage of its diverse weather and soil conditions. The northern part of the country focuses on grain production, soybeans, meat and dairy, while the south specializes in fruits, vegetables, olive oil, wine and durum wheat. You can definitely see this inner division as a parallel to the broader agricultural divisions in the European Union itself.
Despite the country's mountainous terrain that’s often unsuitable for farming, Italy's agricultural sector remains robust to the point that approximately 6% of the population find employment in the sector. Small family-owned farms are predominant, having an average size of 11 hectares. It’s this sticking to small-scale farming that has helped preserve traditional agricultural practices, elevating local, artisanal products to highly sought-after products both in the country and abroad.
Italy has always upheld the culture of healthy eating with fresh produce and artisanal products being highly valued by local consumers. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this trend, driving demand for vegan, vegetarian, and flexitarian options, as well as ""free-from"" products like gluten-, lactose-, or sugar-free alternatives. Additionally, superfoods gained traction among Italians looking to enhance their diets. The pandemic also strengthened the commitment to locally sourced foods as a gesture of solidarity with local producers. It’s how the country has maintained a solid, consistent agriculture sector despite increasing challenges to farming.