Italian Cheeses in the Middle East |

Italian Cheeses in the Middle East

Italian cheesemakers tend to be land-bound creatures: running their business from the same farm, in the same town, generation after generation. But an enterprising group of Italians have made the unlikely journey to the West Bank, in hopes of establishing a viable cheesemaking operation with locals there.

Why does the West Bank need an Italian cheese factory? The organization behind the project, Ucodep, launches global business endeavors in underdeveloped areas. Cheesemaking requires relatively little investment or specialized equipment—just a cool place to ripen and a steady supply of milk; indeed, early cheeses may well have been made by nomadic tribes in this very area. Ucodep clearly felt that an opportunity existed for Palestinian farmers in the West Bank.

Unfortunately, there may not be a market to match. McClatchy News points out that even if local residents had a taste for Italian cheeses—and given their initial reactions, this doesn’t seem to be the case—few in the largely impoverished area could afford this luxury. "We knew from the beginning that this kind of cheese would not be for the people in general," conceded an Ucodep director. And without proper licensing, they cannot export to Israel.

Instead, they have chosen to market their cheeses to foreigners—those who have spent time in Europe, and those living abroad. According to McClatchy, these targeted customers have responded well, and sales amongst upper-class Palestinians and visiting residents have taken off. Without access to larger markets, however—or even the refrigerated trucks that would allow cheesemakers to properly distribute their goods—their production may remain quite limited. [via Serious Eats]


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