Authentic Italian pesto at risk as supermarkets push down price

Pesto Genovese
Freshly made pesto Genovese Credit: Alamy

Traditional pesto is in danger of disappearing as cheap supermarket brands drive Italian producers out of business, it has been reported.

Real Genovese pesto can only be made with basil grown on the hills around the city in northern Italy, where the sauce is said to have been invented. 

But Confagricultura, the Italian agriculture confederation, have warned that the plunging price of basil - due to industrial competition from farmers growing other varieties to be used in cheap supermarket versions of the pesto across the world - means that Genovese basil farmers are struggling.

At the moment basil is currently selling for just €0.60 (£0.42) a bunch meaning some farmers are making just £8.50 a day from their entire output. 

Basil is a key ingredient in pesto Credit: Alamy

Eight-year-old basil farmer,Francesco Ratto told Italian newspaper The Local: "Things have been bad for years. But at the moment it's terrible.

"In spite of its quality it is currently the cheapest basil on the market. Nobody makes traditional Genovese pesto at home anymore.

Italian farmers have warned the competition from supermarkets could put them out of business Credit: Clara Molden

"The future is not good: at the moment I'm making €12 to €15 a day and with winter coming on, I need to turn the heating on in my greenhouses, which I can't afford to do at all."

Andrea Sanpietro, Confagricultura's regional director, told Italian newspaper Il Secolo XIX: "Farmers of Pra' basil find themselves facing a real crisis, and it's affecting what are generally small, family-run farms."

In the UK, a budget jar of pesto can cost between £1-£1.50, while more authentic versions cost £2.50.