For members


War and energy prices: Why the cost of pasta could rise in Italy

Supply chain problems, energy price rises and raw material costs may push up the price tag of pasta. Here's how you may soon be forking out more for your fusilli.

War and energy prices: Why the cost of pasta could rise in Italy
The cost of pasta could rise in Italy - and it's due to more than the ongoing Ukraine crisis. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP)

Buying pasta in Italy – and biscuits or bread for that matter – could soon hit people’s wallets harder, as rising energy bills compound the effects already felt from the Ukraine crisis.

Due to the impact of Russia’s invasion, prices soared over the past week for soft wheat (grano tenero), which is used for products like pastries, because Italy relies on significant quantities of imports from Russia and Ukraine.

The first week of war in Ukraine led to a 13 percent increase in the cost of soft wheat worldwide, according to agricultural organisation Consorzi Agrari d’Italia (CAI).

On the other hand, durum wheat (grano duro), which is used for pasta, has so far seen more price stability because the percentage of Italy’s imports is lower than that of soft wheat.

EXPLAINED: How Italy could be impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

But this could soon change due to a spike in energy and raw material costs – at least in the short term. Here’s how Italian staples could soon cost more, again.

Italy imports a lot of wheat

Russia and Ukraine are important exporters of wheat to Italy. They both are on a global scale too: Russia is the world’s top exporter and Ukraine the fourth according to estimates by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

When it comes to Italy’s beloved produce, pasta, durum wheat has so far been less affected than soft wheat.

That’s because Italy imports much more soft wheat from these two countries.

Wheat products in Italy could cost more, again. Photo by Jean-claude Attipoe on Unsplash

From January to November 2021, Italy imported 122,000 tons of soft wheat (zero of durum wheat) from Ukraine and 72,000 tons from Russia (51,000 of durum wheat), according to national statistics data (ISTAT) processed by agricultural research firm, Confagricoltura.

READ ALSO: Ten surprising pasta facts in honour of Italy’s favourite food

This means that the two countries account for about 5 percent of total Italian imports solely for soft wheat (2.5 percent for durum wheat).

But tensions between Russia and Ukraine could slow down shipments from Russia and block Ukrainian shipments from the Black Sea ports, according to agricultural body Coldiretti. The consequence is the risk of inflation on primary consumer goods.

Rising energy bills cost more than wheat itself

While this means the war has impacted soft wheat in Italy already, the wheat that makes pasta hasn’t felt the repercussions as much due to its lower import quantity.

What could inflate the cost of those shaped pieces of wheat on our supermarket shelves is the packaging and transport costs.

Italian farmers struggle to be self-sufficient, according to agricultural body Coldiretti. Photo by Gianluca Milanesi on Unsplash

CAI points out that the cost of wheat only accounts for 10 percent of the price of pasta or bread. Most of the cost is strongly affected by price increases in energy, fuel, packaging and transport.

READ ALSO: How will the Russian invasion affect Italy’s gas supplies and prices?

It’s a situation “that is fuelling inflation in the more developed countries,” stated Coldiretti.

Italy is highly reliant on wheat and maize imports, as Coldiretti notes that it imports 64 percent of its wheat requirements for the production of bread and biscuits and 53 percent of the maize it needs to feed livestock.

Therefore, if the Russian war in Ukraine makes these food ingredients scarce or further raises the price, Italy may need to look to alternative countries, which could have further packaging and transport cost implications.

How will this affect the cost of pasta and bread as a consumer?

As food prices leaped worldwide on Monday following further sanctions on Russia, wheat products were particularly impacted.

In Italy, pasta already increased by 12.5 percent in January and could cost 30 percent more than last year, according to data from consumer rights association Assoutenti.

The price of bread, which grew by 3.7 percent last month, could see increases of 10 percent, it added.

Outgoings in general are estimated as an extra €1,751 per year for the typical family based on February’s inflation in Italy, according to the organisation – a figure they say is due to get worse due to the conflict and surging energy prices.

Coldiretti noted that wheat prices jumped 5.7 percent on February 24th alone, immediately after Russia’s attack on Ukraine. That marks the highest value in nine years at $9.34 per bushel.

It also reported that the price of fresh bread on average had already increased in January by 3.8 percent compared to the same month last year.

READ ALSO: Cost of living: How does Italy compare to the rest of the world in 2022?

So before the Ukraine crisis, bread and pasta prices were increasing. As noted, energy costs were already pushing up the cost for shoppers.

A woman carries shopping bags after purchasing food at the Market of Porta Palazzo in Turin. (Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP)

According to the national bread-making association, Assopanificatori-Fiesa Confesercenti, the price of wheat has increasingly been affected by the spike in energy and gas bills, which impacts on the operation of machines and ovens.

“The increase in energy costs added to those of grain and raw materials has become unsustainable for our bakery companies,” stated its president Davide Trombini.

The organisation noted that consumers have already been buying fewer wheat products as prices have risen.

Over the last six years the average monthly expenditure of a family on bread and cereals has dropped to €76, and that on bread alone to €21.80, equivalent to a daily expenditure of about €5.

CAI, on the other hand, believe that pasta and bread prices could soar to as much as 50 percent more. It stated that soft wheat quotations are “at unprecedented levels and the first consequences could soon fall on consumers and farmers”.

Why can Italy not grow more of its own wheat?

Instead of relying on imports, what’s stopping Italy from creating its own wheat produce to keep pasta and pastry prices down?

“Italy is forced to import agricultural raw materials because of the low fees paid to farmers,” stated Coldiretti.

One field of wheat out of five has reportedly disappeared in the last 10 years, with the loss of almost half a million hectares of cultivated land.

The agricultural organisation cites the preference to keep buying from the world market instead of ensuring supplies with national products.

READ ALSO: Italy ‘ready to take further measures’ against Russia, Draghi says

Increasing fuel and equipment costs needed to work the land and the fact that durum wheat is cheaper imported from other countries are also given as reasons for why Italy doesn’t make more of its own pasta ingredient.

Speaking on the price rises due to the crisis in Ukraine and rising energy costs, the president of Coldiretti Ettore Prandini said Italy “is heavily in deficit in some sectors and needs a plan to enhance production and storage for the main commodities.”

He stressed that Italy does have the resources to become self-sufficient in wheat production, as long as conditions improve for Italian farmers.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Where do all the native English speakers live in Italy?

Have you ever wondered how many English speakers live in Italy? Here's a look at how many there are and where they live - and which areas they tend to avoid.

Where do all the native English speakers live in Italy?

Good weather, stunning landscapes, amazing food and relaxed ways of life all make Italy an extremely popular destination among foreign nationals.

According to the latest data from Italian statistics office Istat, Italy is currently home to just over five million foreigners, who make up around 8.5 percent of the country’s total population. 

This data only refers to people who have officially registered their residence with local authorities, and doesn’t include foreign nationals who only spend part of the year in Italy or dual citizens.

But exactly how many of these residents come from English-speaking countries and where do they all live? Here’s what emerges from the data.

Brits dominate the Anglophone population

Italy’s 50,600 residents from Anglophone countries only account for one percent of the foreign population.

READ ALSO: How to apply for an Italian elective residency visa from the UK

For context, the Romanian community, which is the largest in the country, is made up of well over a million residents and accounts for roughly 20 percent.

Out of all the native English-speaking residents, Brits are by far the most-represented group as around 28,400 UK nationals – that’s nearly three in five Italy-based Anglophones – are known to live in the country.

The top three is completed by the US with 14,500 residents and Ireland with 3,300. 

Then there’s Canada (2,000), Australia (1,400), South Africa (700) and New Zealand (300).

Lombardy is the most popular region

Lombardy, which boasts the largest job market in the country and includes Italy’s financial powerhouse, Milan, is home to some 9,000 native English-speaking residents, making it the most popular region for Anglophones.

READ ALSO: What are the best Milan neighbourhoods for international residents?

Unsurprisingly, the UK is once again the most-represented country as around 5,000 British nationals – that’s nearly 18 percent of all Brits in Italy – live in the northern region.

Milan's famous Duomo cathedral

Lombardy, the northern region including Italy's financial capital, Milan, is home to some 9,000 native English-speaking residents. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

But Lombardy also has a sizeable US community as 2,400 Americans live in the area.  

Lazio, which includes Italy’s capital, Rome, is ‘only’ the second-most popular region for Anglophones to move to. 

While it has a lower number of English-speaking residents in total, Lazio is the first choice for Americans (2,800 residents), Irish people (700), Canadians (400) and New Zealanders (56).

Tuscany the third-most popular destination for all English-speaking communities, from Brits to New Zealanders. 

Other regions with notable numbers of English speakers are: Emilia-Romagna, which includes the lively and youthful Bologna; Veneto, home to Italy’s floating city, Venice; and Piedmont, including its industrial hub, Turin.

The Eternal City’s appeal

Rome might not have the slick economy of the northern metropolises, but its tourism industry, government institutions and cultural cachet are enough to make it the single top city for native English speakers. 

Around 6,900 Anglophones live in the Eternal City, with Brits (3,200 residents) and Americans (2,400) being the largest communities. 

Rome's Colosseum

Around 6,900 Anglophones live in Rome, with Brits and Americans being the largest communities.
Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

Interestingly, Rome acts as a magnetic pole for the entire region as over 80 percent of UK and US nationals living in Lazio are concentrated in the city. 

READ ALSO: Reader question: What are the rules on moving household goods to Italy?

After Rome, Milan and Florence are Anglophones’ favourite city destinations.

Milan is home to 4,500 native English speakers, with over half of them being originally from the UK, whereas Florence has 2,400 English-speaking residents.

Anglophones tend to avoid southern regions…and the Aosta Valley

All of Italy’s southern regions count comparatively lower numbers of native English-speaking residents, with the lack of job opportunities in the area likely being the main determining factor.

Basilicata and Molise are the second- and third-least popular regions, with just 180 and 191 English-speaking residents respectively.

That said, the region where you're least likely to hear English spoken is not located in the south of the country.

In fact, the Aosta Valley, a small autonomous region in the north-west of the peninsula, is home to as few as 151 Anglophones - though this shouldn't come as much of a surprise, as this is the least populous region in Italy.