December 10, 2008

Italy shores up parmigiana market

The Italian government says it's shoring up the parmigiana market by buying 100,000 wheels of the famed cheese to give to charity.

Despite a strong demand for the cheese in Italy and abroad, parmigiana producers are struggling to make money, which puts parmigiana's future at risk, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

The government is buying the chunks of cheese, which weigh about 77 pounds each, with money from a special European Fund meant to feed poor people, the Journal reported.

Parmigiana is almost indispensable, said Antonio Piermani, a bar owner in Rome who buys about 8 pounds a month to grate over pasta.

Critics of the bailout, however, say it sets a bad example, especially in a country that has garnered criticism for bailing out its airline Alitalia.

If you spend money on parmigiana, then on cabbage, then on Alitalia ... you're using state resources to help those that are inefficient, said Carlo Stagnaro, head of research at the Italian think tank Istituto Bruno Leoni.