Food Mafias

Everyone knows about The Italian delicacies! The extra virgin olive oil, the Parmesan cheese and the fine wine. But there’s a good chance you didn’t know about the Agromafias. These are actual mafia gangs dealing with the delicacies. Imagine gangsters in your kitchen stealing your cheese and wine!  Back in 2019, a news report by CBS’s 60 minutes looks at what is known as the Agromafia business. Estimated to run on a scale of $ 16 billion-a-year the mafia business runs in almost every street in Italy. It deals with selling lesser off food items as high-end quality products. 

The profit margin for this business can be huge with the end product being sold at $50 per gallon of extra virgin olive oil, the production of which takes only $7.This expensive but unfortunately fake extra virgin olive oil is just a mixture of a few drops of chlorophyll for colour added into sunflower oil that has no smell at all. And a common man wouldn’t even know the difference between the original and fake. 

In 2017 around $7 million worth of cheese was stolen which was then exported to foreign countries and sold at a higher rate. Other kinds of fresh cheese which are illegal in Russia and the US are sold in the black cheese market of these countries! The Italian wines are normally just a mix of poor quality wine and branded as famous wines. So you take a cheap table wine and just put a famous stamp on it.

In Tuscany, cops found 42000 gallons of run-of-the-mill red which were going to be sold as top-notch Brunello Di Montalcino. As a matter of fact, half of the bottles that are sold in the Italian supermarket do not meet the legal standards. And in the U.S around 75%-80% easily fail to meet the quality standards.  The mafia has caused immense loss and poverty to the small bakers, shops and small towns. This extortion by the mafias costs Italy around $6 billion a year.

But the story took a surprising turn. In April 2020, when Italy with the rest of us was struggling to maintain its economy due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Italian mafias turned out to be the robin hoods who distributed food to the needy. “These mafia gangs are not just criminal organisations but are aspiring to be the government”, says Federico Varse, professor of criminology at the University of Oxford. However, the local authorities are of the firm belief that the mafias don’t do anything out of goodwill and they will have to repay the favour one way or the other. 

Surprising isn’t it? Food, although known to bring people together, has been a reason for terror to the Italians and their economy. The government has invested in many authorities to end the Agromafia network however the success on large scale is yet to be seen. The network of these mafia gangs runs strongly and is so deeply rooted in the streets of Italy, that to break and solve this problem is an ordeal for law enforcement.

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