Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Mafia buying into Italian agriculture

Reuters news agency reports that “Italy's mafia has infiltrated huge swathes of the country's agriculture and food business, earning more than 16 billion euros ($6.7 billion US) in 2015 from the industry.”

It cites a report by Italy's agricultural association, Coldiretti, the Eurispes think-tank and Agro-Food Criminal Observatory. It said organized criminals were taking advantage of the prolonged economic downturn to seize control of farmland and firms.

"They are creating a crisis for the image of Italian food in the world, they are putting the health of consumers at risk and putting our environment at risk," said the head of Coldiretti, Roberto Moncalvo.

"Above all they are suffocating the business and economic fabric of many honest companies that are being jeopardized by this criminal activity," he told reporters.

The study showed the influence of crime gangs reached right across the country, but they remained especially powerful in their traditional southern bastions, such as Sicily.

In one area, Ragusa, famed for its year-round production of tomatoes, it said mobsters had a total stranglehold on agriculture. Contacted by Reuters, the town council of Ragusa declined to comment on the report.

This comes as no surprise to me. During more than 50 years reporting on agriculture and the food industry, I have come across the Mafia in meat packing, in a major American supermarket chain, in the produce business and in the cheese business.

The only newspaper that reported crimes as committed by the Mafia lost in court because it could not prove there is an organization in Canada called the Mafia.

I was warned by a meat packer once that I should take care, else I would end up in cement boots at the bottom of the Grand River.