The Italian Industrial Districts (IDs) are now considered in the national and international literature as one of the main factors of the successful and rapid industrial development of Italy after the Second World War. In this paper we outline the general characteristics of the IDs approach and then the distinctive figures of the agrifood districts. A mosaic type of development characterised the geographical distribution of the different agrifood districts in the Italian experience. The different origins of agrifood districts often determines their production and structural characteristics of firms, with a relevant role of SMEs. In many cases, these districts originated from handcraft traditions and specific local demand. Their specialized production is often related to typical or high-quality products. The increasing demand for quality and typical food products might widen the possibility of developing local and regional food districts. In the second part of the paper, we have evaluated the economic performance and technical efficiency of a panel of firms in the meat sector which belong or not to the districts, for the period 1998-2002. Some very interesting results have been obtained from the economic and financial analysis on balance sheets of a large number of firms in the meat processing. The stochastic production frontier has been utilized to measure the 'district effect'. We have noticed that in the last years, the 'district effect' has been reducing according to the general difficulties of Italian industrial sector.


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