Rice today

This is the background to the Italian rice industry, which ranks number one in Europe with 230,000 hectares of rice fields (annual average), of which 81,000 are in Lomellina and Pavia, 71,000 in Vercelli and 33,000 in Novara.

  • 2 OCTOBER 1931

    The National Rice Authority

    Italy’s National Rice Authority was established by Royal Decree-Law No. 1237 of 2 October 1931, converted into law on 21 December 1931. Article 1 of the Statute states: “The purpose of the Authority is to safeguard national rice production and the industrial and commercial activities associated with it, facilitating the distribution and consumption of the product and promoting and supporting initiatives aimed at improving the production, processing and consumption of the product.” Since then, the headquarters of this interprofessional body – the only one of its kind in Europe – has been in Milan, but its Rice Research Centre, which cooperates with numerous Italian and international institutions, is located in Castello d’Agogna (on the road to Ceretto) in Lomellina. This is where seed testing is carried out, technical assistance is provided to producers and an Accredia-certified testing service is offered to the supply chain and commercial operators that request it.

There are three trade organisations:

  • 28 SEPTEMBER 1920


    What is now Confagricoltura was created on 28 September 1920 from the merger of two pre-existing trade organisations. It then allied with others to form the Fascist Confederation of Farmers, and in 1948, it was re-established under the name Confagricoltura.

  • 30 OCTOBER 1944


    The National Confederation of Independent Farmers, known as Coldiretti, was founded on 30 October 1944 by Paolo Bonomi.

  • 1977

    Cia-Agricoltori italiani

    Cia-Agricoltori Italiani was founded in 1977 under the name Italian Confederation of Farmers (Confederazione Italiana Coltivatori – Cic), following the merger of Alleanza Contadini, Federmezzadri and Unione Coltivatori Italiani. In 1992, it changed its name to the Italian Farmers’ Confederation (Confederazione Italiana Agricoltori – Cia), which recently became the Cia-Agricoltori Italiani.

Finally, the world of rice processing is represented by the Association of Italian Rice Industries (Airi), based in Pavia, in Via Bernardino da Feltre. In Lomellina, Riso Gallo in Robbio and Curti-Euricom in Valle Lomellina and Riso Scotti in Pavia are among its partners. These are the figures for the sector in 2020: 1.3 billion euros in turnover and 1.1 million tonnes of milled rice.

“Rice weeding alone is back-breaking work, due to the stooped posture needed to keep their feet submerged in the water, the scorching rays of the sun beating down on their backs and the reflection of the sunlight in the water, which affected even their eyesight.”

This concise but effective description written in 1882 by Enrico Pollini captures what is perhaps the most iconic job in Lomellina: that of the mondariso, more commonly known as the mondina or, at the turn of the Great War, the risaiola. Who could forget the sensual figure of Silvana Mangano, who entered the collective imagination as the archetypal mondina through the 1949 film Bitter Rice (Riso Amaro)? This profession has, however, been gradually dying out since the 1960s due to the mechanisation of agriculture and the use of fertilisers. The labour required for various rural activities – such as soil preparation, sowing and harvesting – were drastically reduced, and the tractor, sowing machine, fertiliser spreader and combine harvester replaced the manual work of the day-labourer and the mondina in the space of just a few years. The process of transformation, not only for the rice fields in Lomellina but also for those in the neighbouring Vercelli and Novara areas, has been dramatic, but not without detrimental effects on the sustainability of farming and the surrounding environment.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the massive use of pesticides to kill weeds in the rice fields caused serious damage to the water table and to rice-field fauna – especially frogs. Names of herbicides such as molinate, atrazine and bentazone became notorious; however, since then, they have been replaced in the countryside by buzzwords such as “sustainability” and – as part of the EU Common Agricultural Policy, which will come into force on 1 January 2023 – “ecological transition”. In 2014, the National Action Plan for the Sustainable Use of Plant Protection Products (Pan) came into force. According to the Higher Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (Ispra), around 114 thousand tonnes of plant protection products (fungicides, insecticides, acaricides, herbicides and other pesticides) were placed on the market in 2018 – a decrease of 12% compared to 2014. These institutions stress the need to combine productivity and environmental protection, while harnessing agro-energy.

© Copyright 2022 | Crediti Fotografici: ®Mesturini & Morelli