Pasta la vista as world wheat shortages bite

SUMMER evenings spent enjoying a plate of tagliatelle and a glass of wine are about to become a lot more expensive following warnings that supplies of pasta to the UK could run short over the next few months.

A report from the trade magazine The Grocer says the looming pasta crisis is the result of Italian farmers increasingly growing durum wheat for biofuel production rather than food.

The report says the price of durum wheat is two-and-a-half-times higher than June last year as supplies have tightened, forcing some suppliers to cease pasta production because they are unable to pass on the soaring cost of raw materials to customers and stay viable.

Last week, chilled-foods manufacturer Bakkavr announced it was closing its pasta plant in Scunthorpe, with the loss of more than 100 jobs, because of rises in the cost of raw materials.

Nigel Singh, UK representative for pasta giant Pasta Lensi, told The Grocer that cost pressures were forcing manufacturers in Italy and the UK to cease production.

He said: "The price of durum wheat has leapt 250 per cent since June last year, but a 500g pack of pasta has only increased by 31p to 61p. That's 100 per cent. For farmers, manufacturers and retailers to make a fair income, a 500g pack should sell for 90p."

Last September, Italians went on a one-day "pasta strike" in protest at price rises of over 20 per cent for spaghetti and fettuccine.

The EU says 10 per cent of transport fuel must come from biofuels by 2020. But the industry has been blamed for dramatic rises in the price of food around the world.

James Withers, deputy chief executive of NFU Scotland, said: "We have more people in the world to be fed, while land is lost through drought and flooding caused by climate change and targets to be met for biofuels.

"There is a 'perfect storm' situation building up which will make food security an issue for the first time since rationing during the Second World War."

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