Hedging a loan? Just say ‘cheese’!

Interesting story from Italy. The Credem Bank in the Italian town of Castelfranco Emilio houses 150K tractor-size wheels of cheese – parmesan cheese – in its rear vault (with 300+K stored nearby). Why? The bank is accepting cheese as collateral in order to hedge any potential losses in these time of economic uncertainty. As products go, cheese is ‘solid’ in the market and unlikely to lose value.

 This is not a diversification strategy (it appears to draw on sound economic analysis). Rather, the Bank’s strategy stems from tradition – over 80 years of it. This region of Italy is known worldwide for its Parmesan. In fact, a European court ruled earlier this year that only cheese made in this region can be called Parmesan, but the region’s cheesemakers have to adhere to strict production guidelines if they want to keep their corner on the market. For the Credem Bank, however, housing the cheese – and protecting its investment – requires inspectors to be on hand to classify and ensure the quality of each wheel. Each wheel must be aged a minimum of 12 months. Not to mention, the Bank needs proper storage facilities and maintenance. Can you imagine the cost?

 But get this… each wheel has an estimated market value of 3K. So, with 450K units @ 3K each…. hmmmm…. that equals 1.35 billion dollars worth of cheesy collateral!!!

 That’s a lot of cheese!

 Now, if Canada were to hedge its bets… what product would it use? Any ideas? What is Canada’s signature (and most valued) product?

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