According to the US Department of Agriculture global pasta demand surged during the first half of 2020, as pandemic stay-at-home orders boosted consumption of pasta products. Global exports of pasta surpassed 5 million tons during the 2019/20 trade year and remained strong throughout 2020/21. Tightening supplies of durumwheat, however, have posed additional challenges for the world’s major pasta producers and exporters in the current trade year.
Italy typically dominates the global pasta market. According to the International Pasta Organisation, Italy was the leading pasta producer in 2019 at 3.8 million tons, followed by the United States and Turkey. These countries produce durum wheat, the principal raw ingredient in pasta production. However, given the ballooning demand for pasta, major pasta producing countries must import additional durum wheat to supplement their domestic supplies.
As hot and dry conditions ravaged durum crops across the Northern Hemisphere, the resultant tight supplies have caused durum prices to surge. This has presented large pasta manufacturers with increased shortages and higher production costs. In Italy, both domestic and imported durum wheat prices have climbed past $400/ton. These prices are approaching record levels reached in 2008.
With extremely high durum prices, pasta prices will likely also rise in 2021/22. Top pasta exporters Turkey, European Union (primarily Italy), and China may struggle to price their pasta for export and may see declining shipments. This is especially true for more price-sensitive markets, including Venezuela, Somalia, and Iraq, which may shift to more affordable alternatives such as rice. Other top pasta importers include the United States, Unite Kingdom, Canada, and Japan. Given the higher per capita income levels in these markets, escalated pasta prices are less likely to erode demand.