In the space of a few decades, Italian agriculture – as in the rest of Europe but even more so – has encountered numerous obstacles on its way to modernization amid the more general development of the agri-food system. In particular, the primary sector has profoundly changed the manner and the intensity with which it uses natural resources. It is no longer considered a source of pollution and a predator of resource, but rather a steward and protector of the territory and the environment. In these years of economic crisis, the agricultural sector seems to confirm this change in its role. Once a reservoir of low-educated, low-skilled, elderly and poorly-paid labour, the sector has become a preserve of valuable expertise with numerous imitators. It is able to attract young graduates in search of ancient occupations in new guise, generating products popular on international markets in synergy with a tourism that grows ever more rural. One of the drivers of these changes is the different relationship between citizens and food, with demand for agri-business products of the highest quality and for more information, fewer calories, less waste, and closer concern for the environment.
Researchers at the Rossi-Doria Centre analyse the numerous aspects of these changes. They seek to determine their causes and, above all, their consequences for agriculture and the Italian agri-food sector. Indeed, the most recent changes have found the sector at a stage of ‘incomplete modernization’, while at the same time they represent both opportunities and challenges. In this regard, research at the Rossi-Doria Centre focuses on the competitiveness factors of agriculture by analysing the positioning of Italian food products on international markets, the ability of farms to diversify and generate public goods, and the causes of, and the forms assumed by, Italy’s persisting North-South divide. Moreover, for some years the research group has paid especial attention to analysis of the design and the socio-economic and territorial effects of agricultural and rural policies, with particular regard to those of the European Union.