Durum wheat: imports from Canada quadrupled to Italy

28 February 2015 Off By Pastaria

The first nine months of 2014 saw a leap in Italian imports of durum wheat.

There is a lack of quality wheat in Italian silos. Both the quantity and standard requested by the milling sector are lacking, as is the volume required to meet the needs of pasta manufacturers who continue to press the accelerator on exports, while experiencing some problems in the domestic market.

The alarm was already sounded in recent months by ITALMOPA, the association of Italian millers. The consequences of a very difficult season from the standpoint of weather is now reflected in the statistics which show an increased use of imported durum wheat. A dependency on foreign sources that has structural aspects, but which vary depending on the year and harvest levels.

Official numbers, based on the most recent ISTAT figures, confirm this phenomenon, showing a 70% leap in imports for the first nine months of 2014.

From just under 130 thousand tons the level rose to nearly 2 million tons of imported durum wheat. And the cost for this leapt over the threshold of half a billion euros, from 344 million in January-September 2013, marking an increase of 51%.

Considering Canadian wheat alone—the lion’s share of the Italian milling sector’s purchases—the increase is even higher. Over nine months, arrivals from Ottawa nearly quadrupled: at end-September 2013 they were 226,000 tons, jumping to over 900,000 tons at the end of this past September.

For the most recent harvest, Canada also faced a major decline in yields, mainly due to a decrease in the sown surface area. But stockpile levels were high at the beginning of the period, although destined to drop significantly through this coming June. This fact caused price lists to rise sharply to levels which in just a few months arrived in Italy at a peak of 400 euros per ton.

Returning to imports, in addition to Canadian wheat, US and Mexican wheat also contributed to compensating for the lack of domestic supplies. On a year-on-year basis, imports from the US rose 26%, to over 182,000 tons. An additional 116,000 tons arrived from Mexico which, the previous year, had reduced exports to Italy to zero. Imports from Australia, on the other hand, were more than halved. From Europe, both France and Greece played a decisive role, with 270,000 and 211,000 tons, respectively. However, unlike Paris which generally maintained the volume levels of the previous year, Greece showed a strong push in exports, shipping nearly twice the amount compared with the first nine months of 2013.

Imports of durum wheat, net of exports valued at only 52 million euros, left the national deficit in the red to the amount of nearly 470 million euros. In just a year, the deficit in the trade balance rose by 54%.

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