(Reuters) – The white Alba truffle, a coveted ingredient at $ 4,000 a pound on the food market, is a treasure trove only discovered by dying hunters and their dogs in Italy’s Piedmont forests.
Finding mushrooms, which lose their precious aroma within a week, is the livelihood of a small group of people aged 80 to 90 who were captured in the documentary “The Truffle Hunters,” which opens in theaters on Friday.
“It’s kind of a totally unique fairytale-type community that doesn’t seem to be part of this modern world in many ways,” said Michael Dweck, co-director of the film.
In a shot that resembles an Italian master’s painting, truffle hunters roam the forest with their dogs, who have been trained for four years to dig for golden food among the tall roots of oak trees.
Truffles, which look like little boulders, are tested and traded among buyers and sellers in an industry whose annual value is forecast to grow to nearly $ 6 billion globally over the next two decades. Farmers have tried to cultivate it, with limited success.
The film grew out of a separate visit to Piedmont by Dweck and co-director Gregory Kershaw, who fell in love with its beauty.
When they found out about the historical industry, they took root among the locals before filming for three years.
“What is really extraordinary to us is how rich their lives are, how much joy they have and it seems like they hold onto this wisdom” for having a connection with nature, says Kershaw.
Although the locals speak Italian, they prefer the Piedmont dialect, which some say is a different language.
“It’s not just words, it holds the culture, it holds the history of the area,” Kershaw said. “There is some kind of battle in the language built into it and so when they start speaking in that language, different parts of them appear.”
Filmmakers often mount cameras with subjects in the shots and leave them for hours on end, allowing the story to unfold.
“Everything feels like a Renaissance painting,” said Dweck. “This place blew us away and we wanted to spend as much time as we could and then after we realized there was mystery and charm in this world, we decided to just record it.”
Reporting by Rollo Ross; Written by Richard Chang; Edited by Rosalba O’Brien
ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Food has become so expensive in Turkey that some people are spending what they have on rice and pasta supplies to avoid swallowing higher prices in the coming months.
Parents have turned to discounts on baby biscuits, the cost of eggs nearly doubling in a year, and a mock photo circulating on Twitter where a man on his knees offers a woman a can of cooking oil instead of an engagement ring.
“We only buy the absolute necessary and cheapest brands out there. All food prices went up but especially infant formula, ”said Huseyin Duran, 43, a father of three from Istanbul and a security guard who received part of the state salary for losing his job.
“I’m worried about my children,” he said. “We can only cover our rent, groceries and loan payments.”
In a world with near-zero inflation and the economic collapse due to the coronavirus, Turkey stands out with annual consumer prices up 15%, second only to Argentina among emerging markets and the highest by far in the OECD.
Rising oil and fertilizer prices and dry weather are part of the reason food inflation soars by more than 20% a year. But economists also pointed to a government policy decision that saw the lira plunge to a record low last year, driving up import costs by about $ 9 billion for food.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan reluctantly accepts a sharp interest rate hike that will slow economic recovery right when the COVID-19 vaccine is launched.
With a survey showing kitchens running low, Erdogan may need to do more about the basic cost of living even after lifting the head of a new central bank that in November pledged to tame inflation.
A policymaker told Reuters the government expects inflation to be tough in 2021 and must be monitored.
Turkey is “mired in painful stagflation” even amid the curfew due to the coronavirus and high borrowing costs, said Yesenn El-Radhi, senior analyst at Capital Intelligence Ratings.
“Inflationary pressure continues to be high due to the recent increase in global commodity prices and the effects of the sharp depreciation of the lira,” he said.
LIGHTWEIGHT SHOPPING BAG
The trip to the market – where prices for eggplant, oranges and sunflower oil rose more than 50% last year – has become a serious burden for Turks besides the pandemic, which has stressed workers and incomes.
“Every time I fill the kitchen, the shopping bag gets lighter but the bill gets higher,” said Pinar, 31, who declined to give her last name. “I buy in bulk so I don’t have to shop again for three or four months.”
As a chef on leave, Pinar gets part of his salary under a temporary layoff ban which he says only covers rent and utilities. “I had many sleepless nights (and) in the end I thought I was going to be unemployed.”
Hyperinflation swept through Turkey in the 1990s and only ended with an International Monetary Fund program that tamed prices right when Erdogan came to power in 2003.
Inflation, led by food, surged again in the 2018 currency crisis and has remained mostly in double digits since. Economists blame chronic trade imbalances and the country’s costly FX interventions depleting reserves.
A Metropoll survey last month showed 80% believed inflation was higher than the official tally. A separate survey by the Deep Poverty Network showed more than half of respondents in Istanbul rely on food aid from the city government.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, said the situation was getting worse. “There has never been a hunger in Turkey before. But hunger is a reality now. “
In a turnaround, Erdogan said in November that a “bitter pill” of such high prices was needed to cool prices. Lutfi Elvan, his new finance minister, said he would take structural steps to fight inflation, which is expected to rise until April.
The government has several levers it can pull out to relieve pressure on the public. Ankara has cut tobacco taxes, which weigh heavily on the consumer price index (CPI), even as it raised alcohol and toll duties with less impact on headline numbers.
State agencies also set prices for utilities such as natural gas and electricity. Last month the government raised the net minimum wage by 16% for 2021, to 2,825 liras ($ 377) per month, to encourage workers but also to the overall CPI.
“You can’t solve the food problem with interest rates,” Gizem Oztok Altinsac, chief economist at Turkey’s top business organization TUSIAD, told a conference last week.
“Our problem with inflation is too big, so we have to take more appropriate steps to solve it.”
Additional reporting by Nevzat Devranoglu, Orhan Coskun and Murad Sezer; Edited by Toby Chopra
GENEVA (Reuters) – Members of the World Trade Organization clashed on Friday over proposals that would ban countries from limiting food aid deliveries, potentially complicating responses to next year’s dreaded COVID-triggered humanitarian catastrophe.
The proposal is one of two related to a pandemic that failed to make progress at a three-day meeting of the Geneva-based trade body, a result its spokesman described as “disappointing” in a difficult year for the agency.
The 164-member WTO, which currently has no leader and no appeals body to function on trade disputes, is facing the biggest crisis in its 25-year history.
US Ambassador Dennis Shea, in his final major address to the organization this week, described “wide differences among members” and said the WTO was underperforming.
However, critics blame the Trump administration for its predicament, saying Washington has paralyzed the WTO by blocking the appointment of a new director general and the appointment of opposing judges to the highest court.
Nearly 100 countries voiced support for a food aid proposal, originally submitted by Singapore, which is considering a ban on export restrictions on food intended for the World Food Program (WFP).
The UN agency, which won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to fight global hunger, has warned that 2021 will be a “catastrophe” with possible famine due in part to the fall of the COVID-19 pandemic.
WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell said WTO members, who have to decide by consensus, cannot agree. Some countries seem worried the proposal might interfere with their own domestic food security, he added, saying India was among them.
WFP’s Tomson Phiri said the ban would be a “shot in the arm” for his organization, illustrating how a blockage had delayed rice deliveries to West Africa earlier this year.
Another proposal that WTO members cannot agree to is a waiver of intellectual property rights for COVID drugs, Rockwell told reporters, confirming the outcome of last week’s meeting.
The appointment of a new WTO director general was also raised at Friday’s meeting and there is still no consensus.
“I think what the last three days have shown us so clearly is that we need a DG,” said Rockwell.
(Reuters) – Pizza Hut on Tuesday launched two pizzas with plant-based meat maker Beyond Meat’s BYND.O sausages in the United States and United Kingdom for a limited time, taking advantage of consumers’ craze for plant-based meat options during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The chain, owned by US-based Yum Brands Inc YUM.N, jump on the meat replacement bandwagon as more people seek healthier snacks and comfort foods.
For Beyond Meat, the deal marked another feather on its hat and came a day after it was announced they had co-created the patty for McDonald’s. MCD.N New imitation meat product “McPlant” due to launch in 2021.
Pizza Hut said it will offer Beyond meat mock-up sausage as a topping option at Beyond Italian Sausage Pizza and as a specialty recipe at another pizza, The Great Beyond Pizza, across US stores and some Pizza Hut Express stores starting November 10. , until supplies run out.
In the UK, pizza will be offered at three outlets in London for only three weeks as well as at several locations in Luton and Liverpool, adding that pizza will only be available via delivery and takeaway in both countries.
Consumers crave more plant-based meat alternatives. Large retailers and fast food chains have answered the call, stocking freezers with multiple brands and adding options to their menus.
Pizza Hut’s deal with Beyond Meat comes three months after running trials with Beyond Sausage pizza at five locations in Puerto Rico and testing its first burger offering via Beyond Burger in China last June.
On Monday, Beyond Meat reported quarterly sales were growing at the slowest pace since going public in 2019, as shoppers cut back on shop purchases of burgers, sausages and meatballs after piling up earlier in the year.
Reporting by Siddharth Cavale in Bengaluru; Edited by Bernard Orr