Italian agri-food exports in the international arena
We study the performance of the so called Made in Italy agri-food exports over the last fifteen years, merging the strand of analysis that estimated price and demand elasticities with that considering more explicitly the role of product quality. We proceed in three steps. First, we estimate the elasticities of exports with respect to world imports, export prices and the competitors? prices, both at aggregate and product level. Second, we calculate an index of sophistication capturing the position of each product in different layers of world markets. Finally, we compare the outcomes of the estimates of the long-run elasticities with the changes in sophistication levels. The picture we got is a coherent synthesis of the tendencies and forces shaping world competition in the agri-food sector. Our results show that the strategy of Italian exporters varies according to the type of product and to the degree of market completion. In some cases, Italian exports contrast increasing world competition by increasing quality levels (i.e. their sophistication content); in other cases, price competition is chosen by keeping average unit values at lower levels than those of the competitors. All considered, in many cases, these strategies are successful in allowing Italy to defend and sometimes even to increase its positions in the world markets, in spite of a growing world competition.
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