Ital­ian pasta in­creas­ingly made of wheat from Canada and U.S.

Montreal Gazette - - FINANCIAL POST - ME­GAN DURISIN and ASH­LEY ROBIN­SON

Italy, the world’s big­gest pasta con­sumer, can’t aban­don the North Amer­i­can wheat used to make spaghetti and mac­a­roni af­ter smaller plant­ings and foul weather curbed out­put in the Euro­pean Union.

Ex­ports of du­rum wheat by the U.S. and Canada are boom­ing, foil­ing ef­forts by Italy to pro­tect its farm­ers by adopt­ing coun­try-of-ori­gin la­belling rules in 2017, ef­fec­tively damp­ing im­ports.

EU pro­duc­tion of the wheat va­ri­ety for the sea­son that be­gan in July fell 10 per cent to 7.78 mil­lion tonnes, Euro­pean Com­mis­sion data show, trig­ger­ing de­mand for North Amer­i­can sup­plies.

Ital­ian im­porters took ad­van­tage of U.S. and Cana­dian du­rum of “ex­cel­lent qual­ity” at “his­tor­i­cally cheap val­ues,” Nic­colo d’An­dria, vice-pres­i­dent of the Rome­based grains group As­so­ci­azione Nazionale Ce­re­al­isti, or Anacer, said in an email.

A sec­ond round of im­ports may loom in April, he said.

Ex­ports of Cana­dian du­rum to Italy in the two months ended Sept. 30 almost tripled to 156,500 tonnes from a year ear­lier, ac­cord­ing to the Cana­dian Grain Com­mis­sion. Ship­ments from the U.S. in the nine months ended Septem­ber

more than dou­bled to 210,000 tons, the most since 2015, U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture data show.

Out­put in Canada and the U.S. also de­clined as ex­ces­sive rain ham­pered har­vests. Farm­ers also re­duced acreage for du­rum, which can be chal­leng­ing to grow.

Prices for du­rum stayed rel­a­tively low dur­ing the grow­ing sea­son, which con­trib­uted to Italy’s de­mand, Erica Ol­son, mar­ket de­vel­op­ment and re­search man­ager at the North Dakota Wheat Com­mis­sion, said.

“Some buy­ers were buy­ing early and buy­ing fast based on pro­duc­tion and qual­ity is­sues. The big ques­tion is if it will con­tinue.”

Canada “has be­come the sup­plier of last re­sort,” Cam Dahl, pres­i­dent of Ce­re­als Canada, said.

“Noth­ing has changed in Italy. The coun­try of ori­gin la­belling pro­vi­sions are still in place.”

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