When it comes to pasta, the fun stops for Italians. South of the Alps you can endure a lot, but double-digit increases in pasta prices for spaghetti, fagottini, farfalle, penne, rigatoni, tagliatelle or treccine go against the grain. In the country, which owns more than 300 types of pasta, food prices are rising much faster than the average price level, which is already high enough. According to the statistics office Istat, pasta prices rose by 17.5 percent on an annualized basis in March and by 16.5 percent in April.

Christian Schubert

Economic correspondent for Italy and Greece.

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The government of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, as the self-declared protector of the economic well-being of its citizens, does not want to appear idle. For this reason, the Minister of "Made in Italy", Adolfo Urso, has convened this week at his official residence Palazzo Piacentini a "pasta crisis meeting" with the responsible associations.

It was presided over by an official who is commonly referred to as "Mr. Prezzi", but this name of Benedetto Mineo, who has an office in the Ministry of "Made in Italy", is completely exaggerated: Mr. Mineo has no other powers than the right to ask companies for information on pricing against the threat of fines. It is intended to ensure transparency, nothing more.

Consumer associations sue

To be clear, not much came out of the summit – except for a statement by the minister that "a significant drop in pasta prices is expected soon" and that "monitoring to protect prices continues". It was noticeable that durum wheat prices have fallen by a significant double-digit rate in recent weeks, while pasta prices have also risen by a significant double-digit rate.

Consumer and farmers' associations complain that durum wheat is currently paid at only 36 cents per kilo in Italy, but that this amount does not cover production costs. It is a good 30 percent lower than in the previous year. "The price of pasta, on the other hand, has risen twice as fast as inflation," writes Codacons, an umbrella organization of consumer and environmental associations.

Does anyone deserve a golden nose, they asked. As expected, the representatives of the various stakeholders could not agree on a common response at the Noodle Summit. The "Unione Italiana Food", which represents 500 producers, pointed out that months ago, the pasta on the shelves was made from durum wheat, which was bought at the high prices at the time – and was harvested, transported and packaged at the energy costs of the time.

Producers demand patience

In general, the costs for paper and plastic packaging as well as for fuel, pallets and containers are still very high, the manufacturers argue. They also recall that the price of wheat had more than doubled within twelve months to the beginning of 2022 to almost 600 euros per tonne. After that, it fell to 350 to 380 euros, which is still 30 percent above the level of 2019. "When the price of durum wheat skyrocketed, there was no outcry from pasta manufacturers," adds Unione Italiana Food.