retail

Disastrous season means UK shoppers could pay 50% more for pasta


Shoppers can expect to pay more for their pasta in coming months amid shortages of its key ingredient following a disastrous growing season.

A scramble for durum wheat has pushed the price up nearly 90% this summer after drought and soaring temperatures hit farms in Canada, one of the biggest producers.

There are also supply issues in Italy, with one food industry expert predicting a packet of spaghetti could end up costing up to 50% more.

The high price could result in pasta shortages in supermarkets, said Jason Bull, a director of Eurostar Commodities, which imports more than 10,000 tonnes of food ingredients each year.

He added that the magnitude of the cost increases involved meant they would have to be passed on to consumers. He estimated a 500g packet of spaghetti could increase in price by 60p, or 50%, to £1.80.

Bull said the pasta price hikes could start next month as higher costs had already reached the factory gate.

“The market is completely out of control and as a result there has been an approximately 90% increase in raw material prices as well as increases in freight,” Bull said. “This is a dire situation hitting all semolina producers and all buyers of durum wheat across the globe. Companies are buying at record high prices.”

Durum wheat is the key ingredient in pasta and is ground into semolina to make a variety of products including spaghetti, penne and macaroni.

Mintec, the commodities data group, said its data showed durum wheat prices at record highs. The cost of Canadian wheat has increased from C$414 (£237) per tonne at the end of June to C$780 in September, up 88%. The price of Italian wheat had moved from €305 (£260) to €480, an increase of 57%.

The warning came as the supermarket chain Morrisons sounded the alarm that prices would rise across the retail industry in the coming months, driven by commodity and transport cost increases as well as the shortage of lorry drivers.

Tosin Jack, Mintec’s commodity intelligence manager, said concerns about the significant decline in the North American durum wheat crop following the dry weather and the impact of the cold spring on the quality and quantity of the Italian crop, had caused prices to skyrocket.

“Canada is a big exporter so this has fuelled fears of a supply shortage,” she said. “At the same time, the quality issues in Italy mean that Italians are potentially going to rely more on imports this year. So we have a situation where there is less to go round and demand is not going to go down … so if you really want pasta you are going to have to pay more.”



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