The Agricultural and food sector in figures (figures relate to fresh and processed products)

In 2005, production in the Agricultural industry as a whole was valued at a little over 4 billion euros5 (8.9% of the total for Italy), and employment in the industry was at just over 100,000 (up 19.4% on 2004). The macro-sector for agricultural crops, including herbaceous, woody and fodder crops, for the same year was 3.1 billion euros. The biggest areas are those relating to woody crops (citrus, vines and olives) which are expanding compared to the previous year (up 4%), and herbaceous crops (tomatoes, potatoes, aubergines, wheat etc).
These form 76% of total production, whereas production of dairy produce and meat/meat products is lower.

5. Source: Assessorato al Bilancio e Finanze (Regional Ministry of Trade and Finance) - Statistics office, data processing using ISTAT data for 2006. Figures refer to data from the following sectors: herbaceous, woody and fodder crops, animals farms, connected services.

The most important market areas are listed below:

  • citrus fruits
  • wine
  • olive oil
  • vegetables

Figures relating to agricultural production relate to the area of land under agricultural production, which is 1,260,000 hectares. The island has 300,000 crop, forest and animal farms. The added value for the agricultural, silviculture and fishing sectors is estimated to be 3.2 billion euros (11% of the national figure); a 4.4% increase in real terms.

New sectors/production areas and areas of excellence

Trade figures for 'Made in Italy' products show an increase concentrated in a few products - extra virgin olive oil, sweets/cakes and cocoa based products, and roasted coffee.

Wine is still the mostly highly exported food and agricultural product, with a positive trend of 9.9%.

Compared to the previous year, the most dynamic products are:

  • olive oil and extra virgin olive oil (up 34%);
  • sweets/cakes, biscuits and pastries (up 21%);
  • roasted coffee and derivatives (up 21%).

The foreign market is showing particular interest towards these products, an aspect which could have a huge effect on the Sicilian economy.

In consideration of the above and the fact that Sicily is one of the largest producers of all the regions in Italy within the above mentioned sectors (principally olive growing), it is worth noting the considerable potential of some markets.

6. The monthly average value per unit index and foreign trade figures are calculated using chain indices (the base year of each monthly index of a given year is the year immediately preceding). Unlike fixed base indices, chain indices have the advantage of incorporating, in variations from one reference period to the next, qualitative effects (for example, the changes in the composition of goods, changes in the qualità of the produces, variations in product classifications), and thereby overcoming the problem of the so-called 'effects of strain on the base'. effetto di logoramento della base

Sicily is known for its local traditional products and products of excellence. The island boasts 1367 traditional products, 46 of which are designation of origin, and are divided in the following way:
1 DOCG (Cerasuolo di Vittoria); 22 DOC (Menfi, Sambuca di Sicilia, Santa Margherita Belice, Sciacca, Contea Sclafani, Riesi, Etna, Faro, Malvasia delle Lipari, Alcamo, Contessa Entellina, Monreale, Eloro, Moscato di Noto, Moscato di Siracusa, Marsala, Moscato di Pantelleria, Delia Nivolelli, Vittoria, Passito di Pantelleria, Mamertino, Erice, Salaparuta), mostly in the Provinces of Trapani, Palermo, Agrigento, Caltanissetta and Siracusa; 7 IGT (Valle del Belice, Salina, Fontanarossa di Cerda, Camarro, Salemi, Colli Ericini and Sicilia, this latter covers the whole region), mostly in the West of Sicily; 13 DOP (Oils from Monti Iblei, Val di Mazara, Valle del Belice, Valli Trapanesi, Monte Etna, Colline Ennesi, Colli Nisseni, Valdemone; the Nocellara del Belice olive; cheese - Pecorino Siciliano, on a regional level, and Caciocavallo Ragusano; the Bronte Pistachio nut and Etna prickly pear) spread evenly throughout the region;

7. Source: compiled by Istituto della vite e del vino, on 10/01/07 . There are also an additional 23,000 hectares with right to replantation.

7 IGP (Sicilian "Arancia Rossa" red oranges, uva "Italia" grapes from Canicattì and Mazzarrone, Pachino tomatoes, Pantelleria capers, Pachino melons and the St. Angelo salami), also spread evenly over the island.

Of the new production, as well as those already mentioned, it is worth noting a number of other products which have had market success in recent years, especially on foreign markets - Modica chocolate, Bronte pistachio nuts and Sicilian "taralli" biscuits. A special mention is also given here to organic products. Sicily is the largest organic producer in Italy with more than 8,000 businesses/farms selling mostly on the foreign market.

Organic production: There is an area of 200,000 hectares under cultivation with approx. 8,000 businesses/farms active in the sector (an increase of 24.6% on the previous year), selling mostly on the foreign market (65%, of which 50% sell to EU countries and 15% to non-European countries such as the USA and Canada). The area of land used for organic cultivation is low (Sicily little more than 5%) when compared with the rest of Italy (30%).

The wine-making sector

The links between history, culture, traditional products and cuisine are undoubtedly a source of strength for the Sicilian wine-making sector.

Wine is seen as synonymous with the "Mediterranean diet", especially abroad, also thanks to the image of our country as being one of art and fine cooking. Wine, today, is one of the country's most important trade products.

Sicilian production is weighted far more towards semi-processed products used to supply the wine industry outside Sicily, rather than quality wines. In 2005, there was also a fall in production of DOC and DOCG wines and an increase in IGT wines.

The area used for Sicilian wine-growing accounts for approx. 15% of the national total. 119,000 hectares are cultivated8, 64.4% of which for white grapes, 35.3% black grapes and 0.3% other.

According to figures released by the I.R.V.V. (Regional Wine and Vine Institute), production in 2006 was estimated to be 9,268,970 quintals of grapes, slightly higher than the average for the period 2000-2007 (9 million quintals). This became 6,974,406 hectoliters of wine, of which 16% was bottled (or put in some kind of container) and used to make nearly 4 million hectoliters of table wine.

I.R.V.V. figures show that there are approx. 500 businesses producing bottled wine, of which 50 belong to producer associations.

There are 23 registered quality wines on the island (VQPRD), 22 of which are DOC, 1 DOCG and 7 IGT (Regional Geographical Indication), mostly from the provinces of Palermo, Catania and Trapani. In 2006, the DOC and DOCG wine production was 249,500 hl and IGT production was 1,451,890 hl. There are also 12 'wines routes' on the island

The quantity of wine labels which are registered Designation of Origin wines are few compared to the potential number given the excellent quality of Sicilian wines.

The olive oil sector9

Figures for 2005 show there has been a growth in the sector. With an area of olive groves covering just over 162,000 hectares, and production levels of 3.4 million quintals, the Region has the second highest number of businesses/farms in the sector, following Puglia. For the same year, 254,770 quintals of table olives were produced (down 10.6%) and 2,897,823 quintals of olives for oil (up 5.8%).

There are six types of olive oil with DOP labels ("Monti Iblei", "Valli Trapanesi", "Val di Mazara", "Monte Etna", "Valdemone" and "Valle del Belice"), whose success is due to a mix of genetic inheritance, environmental factors and traditional technologies built on extensive production processes. For other oils, such as "Colli Nisseni", the Designation of Origin certification is underway.

9. Source: Ansa and Assessorato Regionale Bilancio e Finanze - statistics office

Of the olives, only the "Nocellara del Belice" has obtained DOP recognition, and the introductory stage for PGI recognition has begun for "Giarraffa di Giuliana". The organic olives sector is also of interest.

There are 501 mills located mostly in the Province of Palermo, followed by Messina, Trapani, Agrigento, Catania, Siracusa, Enna, Caltanissetta and Ragusa. Most processing of table olives is concentrated in the Trapani area, in particular in Castelvetrano. The oil produced is mostly collected by the producers themselves, who then make direct sales or use it for private consumption. Often the mills and the production businesses are located in the same areas and mainly use traditional, discontinuous processing techniques. However, there is a trend towards continuous processing.

Cold pressing is not commonly used, as hot or medium-temperature pressing is preferred. It is worth noting that in the quality extra virgin olive oil sector, there are a large number of brands (approx. 50) which use the large-scale retail trade to sell smallish quantities positioned in a niche market.

The Slow Food Association is trying to promote a philosophy of 'enjoyment in food' through a scheme aimed at educating the palate, in order to safeguard the world's food and wine heritage.

Below is a list of products which are included in the Slow Food list for Sicily.

The citrus fruits sector

Sicily is the biggest producer, on a regional level, of citrus fruits in Italy (52%). The fruit is of a very high standard and figures for 2005 show 721 million euros of "raw materials" were produced, employing 108,000 hectares overall, 31,000 producers and 58 processing businesses. The processing factories are mostly located in the Palermo, Messina and Catania areas. The juice is extracted for the production of juice concentrates and then put in containers.

Oranges and lemons are the main produce. Red (or Blood) oranges (sanguinello, moro and tarocco) are the most popular, even on the foreign markets. The foreign market for oranges has experienced a sharp increase, whereas the market for lemons (mainly produced in the Palermo area), has suffered substantial losses due to competition from Argentina, Spain and Morocco.

  • Transport and logistics
  • Fishing Industry
  • Shipbuilding Industry
  • Hi-tech
  • Stone industry
  • Decorative ceramics
  • Agricultural and food
  • Tourism