MILAN (AP) — U.S. consumers who appreciate the tang of aged Italian Parmesan cheese as an aperitif or atop their favorite pasta dish are stocking up ahead of next week’s tariff hike and as dairy producers in the two countries square off.
The Italian agricultural lobby Coldiretti said Friday that sales of both Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano, aged cheeses with a distinctive granular quality that are defined by their territory of origin, have skyrocketed in the United States by 220% since the higher tariffs were announced one week ago.
The new tariffs — up from about 97 cents per pound to around $2.73 per pound — take effect Oct. 18. Parmesan cheese is on a long list of EU products targeted by the Trump administration for retaliatory tariffs approved by the World Trade Organization for illegal EU subsidies to aviation giant Airbus.
Coldiretti said American consumers as a result will pay over $20 a pound, instead of $18 — which is expected to hurt sales in the U.S., the second-largest export market after France.
Nicola Bertinelli, president of the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese consortium, said the tariffs threaten the economic health of 330 small dairy producers in the area around Parma and the 50,000 people who work in production.
The consortium produces 3.7 million Parmesan wheels a year, each weighing an average of 88 pounds and aged from 18 months to over 30 months.
Parmigiano Reggiano is produced in a defined territory from the Apennine mountains to the Po River from the milk of 250,000 cows raised in the same territory to earn its “protected designation origin,” a label given to specialty foods from a specific geographic region.
The U.S. National Milk Producers Federation has welcomed the tariffs, saying U.S. producers have been improperly blocked from selling their “common name” Parmesan in Europe.
The milk producers’ lobby said the use of “geographic indication,” like Parmigiano Reggiano, has been “abused” to limit competition of cheese imports from the United States into the EU. It argues that Europe should allow the “high-quality American-made foods” using common names to compete next to the products certified with “protected origin” names.
But Italy’s agriculture minister, Teresa Bellanova, vowed to protect Italian businesses against imports of what she sees as copy-cat products.