Italian Parmesan Producers Fear for Future Amid Drought

The River Po, one of Italy’s most important rivers, is slowly drying up and in desperate need of rain. This has had an effect on the areas dairy farmers, who use its water for their cows and crops. The region in question is famous for its production of the world-renowned “parmigiano” cheese.

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Italian Parmesan Producers Fear for Future Amid Drought | Definition Match

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Full text:

The River Po, which cuts through Italy’s heartland, where 30% of its food is produced is fed by winter snow in the Alps and heavy rainfall in the spring. But in 2022, an unusually dry winter meant snow melt was scarce and spring rains only sporadic, which has led to the worst drought in the northern regions of Italy in more than 70 years. As a result, the Po is hitting record low water levels.

And that is a big problem for the millions of people who rely on the Po for their livelihoods. At dairy farms along the Po’s banks near Mantova, the prospect is grim. Water is an essential part of the operation to feed herds of Friesian cattle.

The milk cows that produce 30 liters of milk each per day are transformed into this region’s authentic Parmigiano Reggiano parmesan cheese. If the cows don’t each drink between 100 and 150 liters of water a day or are overheated, their milk won’t meet the rigid standards, and the cheese won’t be given the coveted seal of approval. The area produces about 52,000 rounds of the coveted cheese each year.

But a bigger concern than the water in their troughs is what they’ll eat. Farmers primarily take water primarily from the Po for crop irrigation to feed cattle. Farmers are worried about restrictions on water and where they could even buy feed if other farmers are suffering similarly.

If it doesn’t rain, things will only get worse. In Milan, Italy’s financial hub, the mayor has ordered all ornamental fountains turned off, and prohibited the washing of private vehicles or watering of gardens and lawns.

Italy is a net exporter of food, providing goods like wheat to many developing nations. A drought here is only exacerbating a food crisis. And the River Po is of incredible significance for Italians.

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