“Pasta Crisis”? What Happened To Italian Staple?

Image by: Cristiano Bendinelli for The New York Times
Image by: Cristiano Bendinelli for The New York Times

Italy’s popular staple food- Pasta, is in an inflation crisis.

Pasta prices have risen by 17.5% in March and 16.5% in April according to Italy’s Ministry of Business. This food Inflation is more than double the inflation of the country’s consumer price index, which grew only 8.7% for March and 8.1% for April.

The elevated prices are blamed on the producers now selling their stocks which were made when raw material prices were soaring. March 2022 saw a peak in wheat prices owing to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Both Russia and Ukraine are massive suppliers of wheat and other agricultural products in the global market.

The product that is available in grocery stores in Italy right now was made months ago, with wheat (mainly Durum wheat) which was bought by producers at an inflated price during the wartime peak.

However, wheat prices have dropped since last year. Furio Truzzi – President of Assoutenti (a consumer protection non-profit organization), claims the high pasta prices are due to companies wanting greater profits, and prices will come back to normal only when people don’t purchase and consume any pasta. Assoutenti plans for a “pasta strike” where people reduce their consumption of pasta for at least 15 days. A similar one-day strike against buying pasta was conducted in 2007 when prices rose by 20%. 

Italy’s Minister of Economic Development, Adolfo Urso, convened an emergency crisis meeting which was attended by pasta producers, consumer associations like Assoutenti, and government officials. 

The Ministry of Business in Italy notes the first signs of prices dropping, although the signs are still too weak to inspire hope. Unione Italiana Food, an association representing Italy’s food producers, says the higher costs of packaging and logistics are also to be blamed for the rigging prices of the Italian staple. They say that wheat prices have come down, but not to the levels recorded in 2020-21. “Pasta is the solution, not the problem” the association added.

Pasta is a staple diet for many if not all Italians. A 2022 survey by the International Pasta Organization states that the average Italian consumes almost 23kg of pasta in one year. Durum wheat, which is a variety of wheat using which most pasta is made, has also seen a decline in its price. However, Nandita Roy, External Affairs Minister for the World Bank, says that any country-specific factors may affect the prices of pasta, not just wheat prices. 

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