A plate of spaghetti pasta with carbonara sauce in Italy.
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Whether it’s a plate of spaghetti aglio e olio or penne arrabbiata, the price of Italy’s beloved staple is skyrocketing – enough to warrant a crisis meeting at the heart of government Italian.
Pasta prices rose 17.5% in March and 16.5% in April, according to the Italian Ministry of Business which cited data from Istat. The jump is double that of Italy’s consumer price index, which rose 8.1% year-on-year for April and 8.7% for March, according to Refinitiv data.
Pasta dishes at restaurants were up 6.1% year-over-year, Italian consumer rights group Assoutenti told CNBC. According to a 2022 survey by the International Pasta Organization, the average Italian consumes almost 23 kg of pasta per year.
The high retail prices are due to producers now selling inventory of pasta that was made when raw material costs were higher.
“This is due to the disposal of stocks produced with higher raw material costs,” Assoutenti chairman Furio Truzzi said, citing rising wheat and energy prices.
In March 2022, the price of wheat hit its highest level in more than a decade as the Russian invasion of Ukraine progressed. Both countries are huge suppliers of agricultural products to the world market.
However, Truzzi noted that input costs have since fallen since then, and higher pasta prices are now driven by other factors.
“High prices are maintained in order to have more profits. Prices will only drop in the face of a significant drop in consumption,” Assoutent said, proposing plans to reduce pasta consumption with a “pasta strike” d at least 15 days. In 2007, The Italians staged a one-day strike versus buying pasta when prices rose nearly 20%.
International wheat prices in April fell 2.3% to their lowest since July 2021, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.
“Wheat prices have fallen from their all-time high after the invasion of Ukraine, but remain high,” World Bank External Affairs Officer Nandita Roy told CNBC via email. She noted that the World Bank predicts a 17.4% drop in wheat prices in 2023 compared to 2022.
Prices for durum wheat, a variety of wheat typically used in pasta, have also decreased in recent months. “However, there are many country-specific factors that would explain the rise in pasta prices in Italy,” Roy added.
Two weeks ago, the Italian Minister for Economic Development, Adolfo Urso called an emergency meeting table a discussion on the rise in the price of pasta.
Pasta producers, consumer associations and government officials were among those attending the meeting – with some figures calling for a cap on pasta prices to limit price rises, a motion which has since been defeated.
A combine harvester moves through a field of durum wheat as it cuts the summer crop in Viterbo, Italy, Friday, July 25, 2014.
Alessia Pierdomenico | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The latest pasta price surveys “are already showing the first, albeit small, signs of falling prices, a sign that in the coming months the cost could come down significantly.” a note from the Italian Ministry of Affairs said.
“The pasta on the shelves today was produced months ago with durum wheat purchased at quotations of [an] even earlier period, with energy costs at the peak of the war,” said a statement from Unione Italiana Food, an association representing Italian food producers. Rising packaging and logistics costs also contributed to high pasta prices, the association said in the statement.
The statement adds that the price of pasta production has increased by 8.4% in one year, which is “on par with the average inflation index recorded for consumer goods”.
“Costs have come down, it is true, but they have not returned to past levels and are still quite high compared to those recorded in 2020/2021,” the body added. “We would like to leave this day knowing that pasta is the solution, not the problem.”