Italian Rice Puts Pasta In The Shade During COVID-19 Pandemic

A picture taken on May 8, 2020 shows a rice plantation near Robbio, Lombardy, during the country’s lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP.


Europe’s top rice producer Italy has seen consumption of the staple rise throughout the coronavirus pandemic, putting even pasta in the shade.

It’s not just popular at home either — China itself has even signed a deal to import Italian rice.

The Chinese have their eyes on varieties used to make typical risotto dishes such as medium-grained Carnaroli, Arborio, Roma or Baldo.

“It is because our rice is better quality than that cultivated in China,” says Stefano Greppi, Pavia province president at Italy’s main agricultural union Coldiretti.

Himself the owner of a nearby rice farm, Greppi welcomes the recent signing, during the pandemic, of an agreement allowing Italy, which produces more than half of European rice output, to export rice to China.

That is a boon for producers in the provinces of Pavia, Lombardy, Vercelli and Novara (both in Piedmont) which account between them for 95 percent of national production.

“It’s a bit like selling ice cream to the eskimos,” quipped daily Il Corriere della Sera the day after the export protocol was signed in April.

“The doors of the huge Chinese market are opening to rice (and risotto) cultivated in the countryside around Pavia,” added the newspaper, explaining that “native imitations of Italian risotto” already exist in China.

READ ALSO: China’s Ground Zero Reports COVID-19 Infections

Spread over 220,000 hectares (545,000 acres) and cultivated by 4,200 producers in all, Italian rice production totals an annual 1.5 million tonnes. The country boasts more than 200 varieties in all, each with its own peculiarities.

Even so, Europe is a mere lightweight when it comes to global production. It has just 0.4 percent of the total world output of 500 million tonnes a year, 90 percent of that Asia-based.

– Outstripping pasta –

With the wind in its sails internationally, Italian rice is also making good headway at home. Consumption soared 47 percent during the first six weeks of the coronavirus pandemic — sometimes outstripping demand even for pasta in that period, according to Coldiretti.

“During the COVID-19 emergency, people rediscovered rice and also risotto, which has always been a bit snubbed in Italian cuisine,” Stefania Buffa, a 27-year-old rice farmer from Robbio in Lombardy, told AFP.

Sergio Lombardi, 63, who owns a farm in the same area, explains that “the region can count on water reserves and a constant supply throughout the duration of rice cultivation, which is not possible in many regions of Italy.”

Sown in spring, Italian rice is harvested between September and October.

Rice was introduced into the country’s north in the 12th century by Cistercian monks, who took upon themselves the task of improving what was then unsanitary and wooded terrain prone to malaria outbreaks. The rice crop benefited from the arrival of canals, whose layout Leonardo da Vinci designed.

Mechanisation then brought further crop advances.

Up until the 1950s and 1960s, people came from the south of Italy, particularly women, dubbed “mondine” or seasonal pruners, to cultivate the Po plain.

Their harsh working conditions inspired the famous protest song “Bella ciao” as well as neo-realist films including “Bitter Rice” (Riso Amaro, 1949) notably featuring Silvana Mangano and Vittorio Gassman.


COVID-19 Deprives 700,000 Italian Kids Of Enough Food – Farmers

People shop at the outdoor market and walk about in central Rome on May 9, 2020, during the country’s partial lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Tiziana FABI / AFP.


The coronavirus crisis in Italy is depriving around 700,000 children of sufficient food, the country’s main farmers’ organisation said on Sunday.

Economic hardship due to the health crisis had been made worse by the closure of schools meaning that children from poor families no longer had access to canteen lunches, Coldiretti said.

“The number of children under 15 that need assistance to get milk or food is now 700,000,” it said in a statement.

People being plunged into poverty by the crisis included dependents of seasonal and temporary workers, small business owners and tradesmen, it said.

Undocumented workers were also hard hit as typically they had no savings and did not qualify for state help.

Southern Italy was most-affected by the increase in numbers of those facing hardship.

Compounding the problem were rising food prices, with Coldiretti reporting an increase of 8.4 percent for fruit, 5.0 percent for vegetables and 4.1 percent for milk in April.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Cases In Russia Surpass 200,000 

Meanwhile, hundreds of charitable associations across Italy are trying to help the poor.

Coldiretti said 39 percent of Italians surveyed indicated they were ready to support their efforts with donations of money or food.


Nigeria’s Index Coronavirus Patient Discharged

The Italian (with face covered). Photo: @jidesanwoolu


The Lagos State government has confirmed the discharge of Nigeria’s index Coronavirus patient.

The patient, who is an Italian, has been receiving treatment at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, after testing positive to COVID-19 on February 28.

Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, confirmed the development in a series of tweets on Friday.

In a picture accompanying his tweets, the Italian was seen with the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, and other health officials.

“As the COVID-19 Incident Commander for Lagos, I am glad to inform you that the index case; the Italian gentleman is now negative.

“Through a combined effort of Lagos, Ogun State and Fed Health Authorities, we were able to limit the transmission of the virus to a single contact,” the governor said.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: NAFDAC Approves Production Of Chloroquine For Clinical Trial

According to Sanwo-Olu, the process involved “contact tracing and containment strategies.”

He further noted that the state has recorded new imported cases of the disease, stressing that the government will still apply the same method to reduce its spread.

The Italian patient

“The index patient consented to donate one unit of white blood (plasma) before he was discharged today. The blood plasma is rich in antibody proteins that target #COVID19 virus.

“The white blood plasma is frozen in our Bio-bank and will be useful in handling new cases. The blood plasma will be beneficial for the treatment of new patients in the absence of a defined therapeutic drug for #COVID19 yet.

“The index patient appreciated the exceptional care and support given to him by the staff of the mainland Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba, all members of the EOC.

“The EOC team was extremely happy to bid the patient farewell. Once again, we like to convey the enthusiasm of our team to do the very best possible in handling incidents of Coronavirus,” he said.

Nigeria’s Index Case Tests Negative For Coronavirus

A file photo of Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Professor Akin Abayomi. Photo: Twitter- @ProfAkinAbayomi
A file photo of Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Professor Akin Abayomi. Photo: Twitter- @ProfAkinAbayomi


Nigeria’s first confirmed case of Covid-19, an Italian on a business trip, has now tested negative for the virus, the Lagos state government said on Thursday.

The Italian has been on quarantine and receiving treatment since he was discovered to have contracted the virus in late February.

The news of his recovery was announced by the Lagos state commissioner for health, Professor Akin Abayomi during a press conference.

Abayomi said the Italian will be released after another negative result.

28 Persons Identified, Quarantined After Contact With Coronavirus Patient In Ogun

Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, briefing journalists about the recent development of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state where 28 persons have been identified and quarantined.


At least 28 persons have been identified and quarantined in Ogun State after coming in contact with Nigeria’s first Coronavirus patient.

The patient, an Italian citizen who works in Nigeria and just returned from Milan, Italy on the 25th of February 2020, was confirmed to have the COVID-19 virus by the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, on Friday.

According to the Ogun State governor, Dapo Abiodun, who confirmed the latest development to journalists, the company where the Italian had visited in Ewekoro has been shut down, while two isolation centres have been identified.

“The information we have is that the particular company in question has practically shut down and they have set up two isolation centres within the company. They have identified all those that have been in contact with this index, totalling about 28 so far and they have been quarantined.

“They are looking at interviewing these 28 people to know who they have been in contact with so that they can ensure these other people are quarantined,” he stated.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: Why Nigerian Govt Did Not Isolate Every Traveller – Minister

He added that surveillance centres have been reactivated in all the 20 Local Government Areas in the state and the Olabisi Onabanjo teaching hospital in Sagamu in case of an outbreak.

“We are not leaving any stone unturned; we have distributed a lot of items all the way to our local government and our primary health care centres; gloves, masks and protective equipment.

“We are quite worried that even from the time the sample is sent to the lab, it will take about 4 to 8 hours for the feedback; either positive or negative and the transit time from Ogun to Lagos state could be anywhere between 2 to 4 hours so that’s about 12 hours.

“We have decided that the isolation unit we have set up at the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital is temporal; I have been in touch with Ministers of health, my counterpart in Lagos and the commissioner for health and we decided to upgrade our isolation centre to a full-fledge bio-security centre and the commissioner for health will be visiting Lagos and we will work together to immediately upgrade the centre in Sagamu,” he added.

The governor explained that the news did not come as a shock because of the proximity with Lagos state where the patient first had an encounter.

“We are the contiguous state to Lagos; the industrial capital of this country and we shouldn’t be shocked that this has happened; Lagos is the gateway of the country and when someone comes into Lagos, they are coming into one of our industrial hubs or to do business in Ogun state and it’s not surprising that this situation is unfolding ahead of anywhere else in the country.”

Coronavirus: Implement A Policy Of Stronger Screening For People, Saraki Tells FG

A file photo of former Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki.


Former Senate President, Bukola Saraki has called on the Federal Government to install and operate top-notch screening equipment’s at all entry points, in a bid to curtail the spread of Coronavirus in the country.

Nigeria confirmed its first case on Friday morning after an Italian citizen who returned from Milan, Italy on the 25th of February 2020 was quarantined and tested positive to the novel COVID-19 virus.

Dr Saraki in a statement on Friday stated that the first confirmed case must be seen as an opportunity for Nigerians to unite behind a common objective of overcoming the threat to the wellbeing of all.

READ ALSO: 28 Persons Identified, Quarantined After Contact With Coronavirus Patient In Ogun

He added that the relevant government agencies should step up their awareness campaign by issuing relevant and timely information about the disease and steps that can be taken to prevent further spread.

“The occurrence of Nigeria’s first case of COVID-19 must be seen for what it is – an opportunity to unite behind a common objective to overcome a threat to the health and wellbeing of our beloved country and her people.

“I appeal to the Federal Government to install and operate top of the line screening equipment at our airports, seaports and land borders while implementing a policy of stronger screening for people arriving our shores from countries with a high prevalence of the virus.

“I appeal to Federal Ministry of Health and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control to step up their awareness campaign by transmitting information about the disease and the steps that can be taken to prevent it in as many Nigerian languages as possible,” he said.

The former Senate President appealed to Nigerian not to panic and avoid the spread of fake information about the virus.

“It is also necessary to appeal to the Federal Ministry of Health to update Nigerians daily on events to help curb the spread of fake news and misinformation about the virus. I appeal to media houses to support this awareness campaign as much as possible.

“Finally, I appeal to Nigerians not to panic and to avoid spreading sensational or false information about the virus.

“I have always believed that Nigeria and Nigerians can overcome any challenge before us when we unite behind a common purpose. I believe we can do so now,” he asked.

Italian FA President Carlo Tavecchio Resigns

Carlo Tavecchio at his post-resignation press conference. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Outgoing Italian football federation (FIGC) president Carlo Tavecchio said Wednesday he did not expect a new coach to be appointed before next June.

Italy have been without a coach since Giampiero Ventura was sacked after the four-time champions failed to qualify for the World Cup finals last November.

Tavecchio was forced to resign as FIGC chief but will remain in charge until his successor is elected later this month.

“I’m in charge until January 29, and I don’t think that by that date there will be the new national team coach,” the 74-year-old said on the sidelines of the presentation of the new 2017-2018 Panini Collection in Milan.

“I won’t be the one that chooses the new coach. I can also tell you that the best coaches are under contract until June. It’s difficult for the new coach to be appointed before then.”

Among the names being touted are Zenit Saint-Petersburg’s Roberto Mancini, Chelsea manager Antonio Conte and former Bayern Munich coach Carlo Ancelotti.


Quake Damages Hotel On Italian Island In Ischia

Amateur picture

Amateur picture uploaded to the Internet on Tuesday (August 22) showed damage to a hotel after an earthquake hit the tourist-packed Italian holiday island of Ischia on Monday night (August 21).

The video showed cracks in the walls and fallen bricks at Hotel Terme Vinetum, near the town of Casamicciola, following the earthquake which has so far killed at least two people and injured dozens more.

Television images showed about six buildings in Casamicciola including a church had collapsed in the quake, which hit at 8:57 p.m. (1857 GMT).

Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology put the magnitude of Monday’s quake at 4.0, revising it up from an initial 3.6, but both the U.S. Geological Survey and the European quake agency estimated the magnitude at 4.3

Rivers Amnesty: Hundreds Of Cultists, Gang Leaders Surrender Arms

Cultists, gang leaders take amnesty in Rivers StateHundreds of cultists and their gang leaders from Ikwere and Obio Akpor Local Government Areas have accepted the Rivers State government amnesty.

They enlisted for the amnesty programme on Monday, as the three-month grace period given by the Rivers State government for them to accept the offer or face the wrath of the law nears conclusion.

Notably among them were two gang leaders, known as Italian and Gunboat, who had earlier been declared enemies of the state for refusing to accept the state government’s amnesty programme.

The situation was rowdy at some point, as cultists and suspected criminals from Ikwere and Obio Akpor communities of Rivers State arrived for the amnesty programme granted by the state government.

The committee had to resort to the use of camera lights as daylight begins to fade away, made worse by a cloudy atmosphere due to rain.

Granting pardon on behalf of the Rivers State government to the cultists, the spokesman for Governor, Ken Chinda, warned Justice Amadi also known as Italian and others who joined the queue in an event that lasted till nightfall, to stay away from criminality henceforth.

Vowing to desist from criminal activities, as he received his pardon, Justice Amadi said: “From today, I am no longer Italian, call me by my name Justice”.

The Caretaker Committee Chairman of Ikwere Local Government Area, Samuel Nwonosike, warned the repentant gang leaders and cultists that “anyone that goes back to crime will face the full weight of the law”.

“Everyone who has accepted amnesty today are pardoned of their former acts of criminality by the state, but anyone that goes back to crime will be made to face the law,” he warned.

In the end, all those who accepted pardon were advised to stay out of trouble.

Rivers Amnesty: More Cultists Surrender Arms

Rivers Amnesty: More Cultists Surrender ArmsHundreds of cultists and their gang leaders from Ikwere and Obio Akpor local government areas have joined the queue to embrace the Rivers amnesty programme offered them by the state government.

This came as the 3-month grace period given by the government draws to a close.

Notable among the latest repentant cultists are two gang leaders, known as Italian and Gunboat, who had earlier been declared enemies of the state for refusing to accept the amnesty programme.

The event, which lasted into the night, became rowdy at some point as the cultists and suspected criminals from Ikwere and Obio Akpor communities arrived to denounce their old acts.

The amnesty committee had to resort to the use of camera lights as day light began to fade away, coupled with the evening’s rainfall.

The Special Adviser to the Governor of Rivers State on Amnesty, Kenneth Chinda, granted pardon on behalf of the state government.

He warned Justice Amadi also known as Italian and others who joined the amnesty queue to stay away from criminality henceforth.

The repentant Justice Amadi also replied, “from today I’m no longer Italian, call me by my name Justice” as he received his pardon.

The caretaker committee chairman of Ikwere Local Government Area, Samuel Nwonosike, then advised all those who have accepted the state’s pardon to stay out of trouble.

He warned that anyone who goes back to crime would face the full weight of the law.

“They are safe as long as they don’t go back to crime. But as soon as they go back to crime, the full weight of the law will come upon them,” he said.

The Rivers amnesty programme continues to achieve success with hundreds of cultists having, one week earlier, denounced crime and criminality with arms and ammunition recovered in various local government areas.

Sweden Includes Ibrahimovic In Olympics Squad

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden, OlympicsZlatan Ibrahimovic has been listed in Sweden’s provisional 35-man squad for the Rio Olympic Games in Brazil.

But the 34-year-old has refused to disclose his intention whether or not to participate in the Olympics, until the Euro 2016 was over.

He is the captain of the Swedish national team at the ongoing European football competition.

Meanwhile, Sweden’s coach at the Olympics, Hakan Ericson, said he would keep Ibrahimovic’s chance of participating open, but acknowledged the probabilities were slim.

This comes after the Paris Saint-Germain forward agreed to conditional terms with Manchester United and to join the club after Euro 2016.

The Red Devils manager, Jose Mourinho, gave his approval to Ibrahimovic’s signing, as the duo were motivated to work together again after winning the Italian league title with Inter Milan in 2009.

Two Seamen Die On Norman Atlantic Ferry

Norman Atlantic Two Albanian seamen have been killed on a tugboat while towing the fire-stricken Norman Atlantic ferry.

Both men died after being hit by a connecting cable between the vessels on Tuesday, Albanian officials say.

“One man died on the spot when one cable broke after it got stuck in the propeller. The other died on board a few minutes ago when being assisted by a helicopter medical team,” a port authority official in Vlore told Reuters.

Ten people had earlier died after the Norman Atlantic caught fire on Sunday off the Greek coast.

Rescue teams evacuated more than 400 people from the car ferry that caught fire off Greece’s Adriatic coast in a 36-hour operation on roiling seas.

Italian and Albanian magistrates have ordered the Italian-flagged ferry, which was chartered by Greek ferry operator Anek Lines, to be seized to investigate the cause of the fire.

It is unclear how many passengers are still missing. Rescue helicopters have been diverted after another ship sent a distress signal nearby.

A cargo ship carrying several hundred people near the Greek island of Corfu appealed for help late on Tuesday morning, according to Greek media.

Monday’s rescue operation was conducted amid considerable danger and panic.

As passengers tried to escape from the flames by going on to the deck, they were confronted with freezing cold rain and huge waves while heat from the fire below scalded their feet.

Survivors described scenes of people fighting to get to lifeboat slots and into helicopter baskets. Those rescued have complained that the crew seemed overwhelmed by events.

Some witnesses said that there had been no fire alarms or knocks at the door from the crew to rouse sleeping passengers.