Now It’s Time for a Cheese Maker’s Bailout in Italy

On this icy, slippery day, I think about a story I read last night in the WSJ. It was about another bailout, but this time, it’s for Italy’s makers of fine aged Parmesan cheese. Yes, that’s right. Another story of a product that costs more than it sells for, and so, the government is adding the cheesemakers to the list including Alitalia, banks and others who need a helping hand.

You think making cheese is easy? Not this kind. It has to age for one full year, and the 77-pound wheels have to be turned every week….that’s 52 turns per wheel. According to the makers, who all live on small farms outside the Northern Italian city of Parma, it costs 8 euros to make a kilo of cheese and it sells for 7.4 kilos. The farmers have an enemy in another type of cheese that’s similar, called Grana Padano, which when push comes to shove, Italian consumers buy for much less. It’s almost as good when grated on pasta.

But here comes the slippery slope–now the buffalo mozzarella cheese makers are feeling emboldened and asking for government help. After all, their cheese has been threatened by Naple’s famous garbage problem, making consumers afraid that bad water will affect the watery cheese. Sales are down 18% over the past year.