October 25, 2021

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“Dramatic situation”: Why is pasta becoming more expensive?

“Theatrical Situation”
Why is pasta so expensive?

From Marina Job

Climate-related crop failures severely affect the global distribution chains of wheat and cause steep price increases. It will soon be visible on pasta shelves in supermarkets.

During the summer months, food prices rose at an above-average rate, which significantly stimulated inflation. Soon, a staple food will place an additional burden on the statistics store: pasta. This year, your manufacturers need to dig deep into their bags to reliably store the ingredients for pasta. The price of durum wheat goes through the roof.

“We have 600 euros per tonne, free port in Europe, but also enjoying prices in North America,” says Guido Jeremyaster, spokesman for the Pasta and Durum Wheat Mills Association of the Grain, Flour and Starch Industry (VGMS). “This year’s harvest is not enough and we see the price of durum wheat doubling and sometimes even tripleting,” a union spokesman said of a “dramatic situation.” Manufacturers are panicking. It is not yet clear how many end users will be blocked. “But raw materials, along with energy and inventory, play a major role in increasing costs.”

Although the supply chains from wood to microchips are sensitive to corona infection, it is the weather capers that shake the market when it comes to grain. This is because, unlike common wheat, durum wheat is very sensitive to weather. Europe had long dry and hot phases, followed by above-average rainfall, often characterized by storms. The risk of mold growth increased. The Federal Ministry of Agriculture noted that the inclement weather has made the grain harvest the biggest sport this year. Quality defects are that grains are more suitable for animal feed than semolina.

“Complete failure”

The fact that the whole of northern Europe has been badly affected by the humid weather this year “shows very clearly that we are living in times of climate change,” says Jeremiah. Summer – and the accompanying harvest – really fell into the water at the final stage. Due to poor harvest quality, the distillery that meets the quality standards of the mills was reduced from 1.5 million tonnes to one-fifth of the average of France’s main cultivating country. “Absolutely failed,” Jeremiah said.

With an annual production of 33 to 35 tons worldwide, that alone would not be decisive for war. At the same time, however, two important growing areas on a large scale failed in North America. In Canada, as a leading exporter, six to seven million tons of wheat makes a healthy contribution in good years, destroying half of the long drought yields in the grassland provinces, especially during the growth phase. In some parts of the United States, there was no rainfall, and the heat caused about 50 percent of failures there as well. Along with growing areas in Kazakhstan, the Maghreb, Mexico and Argentina, German fields produce about 200,000 tons of distillate.

The Grain and Mill Association laments that the global wheat harvest will decline to a minimum of 20 years this marketing year. With a downward trend for about four years. For common wheat, prices are as high as they were eight years ago. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s market moving harvest forecasts initially signaled a deficit over the course of the year, but since August they have adjusted for the global wheat harvest and upward exports. Inflation has slowed recently as concerns over global supply have eased.

Great hunger

But the main product on which noodles and pasta producers depend only is not wheat. The semolina noodles made from durum wheat are kept in shape while cooking and give them the al-dende bite they need. This is ensured by high levels of gluten and protein. Durum is an ingredient derived from the grains of couscous and bulgur. Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa are the major consumer countries.

Like pasta in Italy, noodles have a long tradition in Germany. A quarter of the pasta produced in this country contains eggs. According to the Manufacturers Association, Germans consumed an average of 9.5 kilograms of noodles or pasta in 2020. More than half of consumers eat pasta at least once a week. German manufacturers and procurement groups currently import 450,000 tonnes a year – a quarter of them from Canada.

German discounts on other bad harvest years have also pushed up the price of pasta at retail – most recently in 2007. The price of wheat has doubled to 350 euros per tonne compared to the previous year. Now the markets are going crazy again. In August this year the price of the scarce raw material was over 600 euros per ton. According to VGMS, this is less than half of the previous year and in 2019 about 220 euros.

Import prices at a glance

Higher grain prices are reflected in the inflation rate for vegetable products, which this year, according to the Federal Bureau of Statistics, has already risen by 15 per cent compared to the same month last year. No one wants to predict how strong the price increase will be on German shelves. But on the one hand, polenta cannot be substituted for pasta. On the other hand, spokesman Jeremias insists that “no manufacturer can absorb such a dramatic shortage”. “He depends on the fact that he can cross prices to a certain extent.”

Although it is not yet clear whether import prices will continue to rise, stay sideways or fall, there was initially great concern about the safety of supply. Consumers will not enjoy empty shelves like the early hamster stages of the corona crisis. “The noodles will definitely not run out. But a cupboard will be empty for a while,” a union spokesman said. In our over-used system, growth makes it clear how quickly such a thing can end – and how quickly prices can rise dramatically.

This text first appeared In “Capital”.

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