Will the price of spaghetti increase in the coming weeks? To hear the manufacturers of pasta, it is probable: the harvests of durum wheat suffered from climatic accidents, making jump the courses.
Spring 2020, first confinement: consumers rushed on survival purchases, robbing the pasta and flour departments. Despite occasional stock shortages, the supply chain had held up, and the French were able to eat their annual 9 kilos of spaghetti, pasta and other pasta, and cook a lot of cakes at home. But to respond to this sharp increase in purchases, manufacturers have drawn heavily on grain stocks.
Durum wheat in disarray
Bad luck, the 2021 durum wheat harvest (see box) promises to be catastrophic. Blame it on the climate: the downpours in Europe and the Saharan temperatures in North America harmed the quantity, but also the quality of the grains. In Canada, the world’s leading producer and exporter, the harvest is expected to be cut by a third, and exports to shrink by half. As a result, global cereal prices have soared 30% in recent weeks, a crisis that the pasta manufacturers’ union, Sifpaf, calls “of history”. This tension is also felt in France, and our spaghetti, whose wheat represents 30% of the price, could well become more expensive. Even if, in theory, France is globally self-sufficient in wheat, three-quarters of the harvest is exported, which means importing two-thirds of the pasta and one-third of the semolina (couscous) that we consume (mainly from Italy ).
Processors and distributors have also begun to prepare people’s minds. The Executive Purchasing Director of Lidl France, Michel Biero, announced “slight increases” to consumers on BFM on September 2, while Jean-Philippe Lefrançois, managing director of the manufacturer Alpina Savoie, estimated that an increase of 10 cents for a 1 kilo of spaghetti should be considered for manufacturers to survive this price increase wheat. We have been warned…
The bread more preserved
French baguette should be preserved more than pasta. With soft wheat harvests posting better yields, price increases are more moderate. Nevertheless, increases on bread are to be considered due to rising production costs, due to “a very spread out harvest over time, a lot of sorting work according to the quality of the grains, increased transport costs, lists Jean-François Loiseau, president of the National Association of French milling. The cost of production is amplified, and it will have to be translated to the consumer. »
However, the rise of the bread “should remain marginal”, he wants to reassure. In effect, “Wheat counts for little in the final price of the baguette: only 6%”. That is 6 cents for a €1 tradition, for which a 30% increase in soft wheat would therefore generate an additional cost of less than 2 cents.
Hard wheat or soft wheat?
- durum wheat is used to make dry pasta, semolina and bulgur. It is less widespread than common wheat, and intended almost exclusively for human consumption.
- soft wheatit is used, among other things, to make bread, pizza, pastries and pastries, but also fresh pasta.