Transcribed by Marcelo Pinto June 1st, 2012
It’s a bank, but not as we know it. With all the security of any vault, except in here, it’s not money they’re guarding but cheese.
Three hundred thousand blocks of Parmesan cheese worth 120 million pounds to be exact. All part of a unique cheese for money loan program run by a bank. We help fiance the Parmesan cheese makers because their cheese takes two years before it’s ready for sale, that gives them a cash flow problem. So we take take their cheese in return for a cheap loan.
The Credem Bank takes the cheese from local producers on deposit and stores it here. It’s cleaned, turned, and tapped in a constant process of checking. Once the cheese is here in this vault both the parmesan cheese maker and the bank want to make sure it’s kept in top quality condition. Which is why this man is tapping it, he’s an expert in keeping that parmesan fresh.
A small wonder because this one block weighs 40 kilograms and is worth more than five hundred and fifty pounds. Giovanni Gualdi is 71 and has been a parmesan cheese maker all his life. But it’s a slow labor intensive process. But whilst the cheese ripens, the bills and wages still have to to be paid.
More than a hundred cheese makers have been forced out of business in the past five years. That’s why those like Giovanni rely on a cash-for-cheese agreement to be paid.
It ‘s been a difficult 5 years. The market has been very bad. Businesses here have spent money so they rely on the loans. Otherwise they would shut.
If the producer defaults on his loan, Credem Bank can simply sell the parmesan. It’s thinking about extending the idea to olive oil and parma ham. For now though it’s cheese and a bank that’s taking a mature attitude to lending. Duncan Kennedy, BBC News, Emilia-Romagna, Northern Italy.