Pasta prices in Italy are increasing at twice the rate of the country’s already considerable inflation. That has spurred the government to assemble a crisis meeting to look at ways to temper the price surge of the popular food.
Set to occur on May 11, reports Reuters, the talks will be headed by a government-appointed watchdog on inflation. The cost of pasta in Italy has skyrocketed 17.5% in the past year, even though the cost of wheat has gone down. Overall inflation in the country currently stands at 8.8%.
Pasta’s not just expensive in Italy. Prices in the U.S. have spiked since last October as well. A report from the St. Louis Fed tracking the average price of spaghetti and macaroni shows a jump from $1.067 per pound in October to $1.465 in March, after peaking slightly higher than that in February. That’s the highest price on record, with figures (from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) reaching back to 1984.
There’s a difference between U.S. and Italian pasta, though. A 1967 Italian decree called the “purity law” requires that all dried pasta sold in Italy be made from durum wheat, a hard-grained, coarse strain. That varietal is considerably more difficult to use than traditional bread wheat, but it makes a pasta that holds its form during cooking without becoming soft or bland.
Less than 10% of the world’s total wheat production is durum wheat.
While inflation has impacted several food items in the past few years, pasta is a staple in so many households, especially in Italy, that the impact is considerably more painful. While higher wheat prices have been part of the reason, higher energy costs and supply-chain issues have also been blamed for the increases.