Access To Land

Prosecco: bubbles of discord

Marta Di Pierro and Marzia De Sanctis, Italy

If an Italian excellence is rapidly growing in the world market and to meet its higher demand needs an ever larger share of agricultural land, can we speak of land grabbing?

The area of ​ Prosecco DOC covers nine provinces between Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia and includes more than 8000 wineries reaching a production of 2.6 million hectoliters bottled in the past year.

Thanks to the opening of markets in areas such as America and South-East Asia there is a growing demand of Prosecco and the Consortium managing the DOC has decided to increase the production of other 3000 hectares of vineyard varieties Glera – the extension estimated to maintain market equilibrium by the Interdepartmental Centre for viticulture at the University of Padua and Nomisma. The decision was well received by the administrations of the regions involved who promptly acted about it (e.g Delibera Veneto Region 990 of 29/06/2016).

The new lands, 2444 hectares in Veneto and 556 hectares in Friuli, will be half allocated to producers already included in the Prosecco DOC control system - through the submission of an expression of interest - while the other half will be assigned to new farmers through a public call that according Zanatte, president of the Consortium, will support the farmers under 40 and the organic sector. With these measures, it is estimated that the harvest of 2019/20, at full capacity, will produce 3.78 million hectoliters, equivalent to more than 500 million bottles of Prosecco DOC.

The new CAP also facilitate this process of land acquisition: the new CMO - Common Market Organization is indeed confirming the abolition of all a supply control instruments for the period 2014-2020. Therefore, from the 1st of January 2016 the quota system allocating the rights to plant vineyards were abolished. Wine growers no longer have to buy the rights from another producer who is leaving the market, but they only have to ask for a free authorization based on the availability of individual Member States. The abolition of planting rights could generate the risk of production surplus on one side and the relocation of vineyards in areas with a higher yield on the other. However, unlike rights, the authorization may not be sold or bought.

The authorization system allows each Member State the possibility of expanding vineyard surfaces in a proportion not exceeding 1% of the total national vineyard - in Italy this area amounts to 6000hectares/year, which in 2016 have been absorbed by 50% from the implementation of Prosecco DOC production.

So far the global and EU point of view, but what about the local community? The movement Coltivare Condividendo – Growing by sharing, from Belluno, fears an invasion of intensive vineyards with an extensive use of synthetic chemical products, at the expense of traditional, local and organic crops, and consequently also indirectly on tourism. Moreover, this process is also causing an increase in the price of land, which is becoming more and more prohibitive for those who want to pursue an alternative agricultural project.

For these reasons, a few citizens from Veneto region got organized in a GAST – Gruppi di Acquisto Solidale di Terreno (Solidarity land purchase groups): about thirty families are buying land with their savings, land with forests and orchards, which would otherwise be subtracted by the invasion of Prosecco. In this case the duality does not oppose agriculture land with urban sprawl but changes in landscape and a way of farming that a part of the local population does not accept and indeed considers harmful and disrespectful towards local tradition and biodiversity.

If an Italian excellence is rapidly growing in the world market and to meet its higher demand subtracts land to traditional crops, it causes an increase in the local price of land and impoverishes the landscape, can we speak of Land Grabbing?

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