Italian crime syndicates control a big part of food business

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Milan/Reuters — Organized crime in Italy controls agricultural and food businesses worth 12.5 billion euros ($16 billion) a year, or 5.6 per cent of all criminal operations in the country, according to a parliamentary investigation.

It has spread its involvement through the entire food chain from acquisition of farmland to production, from transport to supermarkets, said Coldiretti, Italy’s biggest farmers’ group.

“Italians find an additional invitee at their table: criminal organizations that eat up what Italians should have eaten,” Coldiretti quoted Italy’s chief anti-Mafia prosecutor Pietro Grasso as saying.

Mafia-like criminal groups often dictate producer and consumer prices in their own favour by undercutting prices paid to farmers for their products and inflating prices paid by consumers in food stores, Coldiretti said.

The Italian agriculture and food industry also suffers from the manufacture and sale each year of an estimated 60 billion euros’ worth of poor quality foreign food that masquerades as top-quality Italian brands ranging from cheese to ham to wine, Coldiretti said.

Grasso said Italian laws should be tightened to help fight the grip of organized crime on agrobusiness.

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