Durum Wheat Prices Shoot Up 45%

Spend Matters welcomes this guest post by Corrina Savage at Mintec. 

Whether you are carbo-loading for a marathon or sharing quality time with friends, pasta dishes are a lifelong favorite of many millions of people worldwide. Lasagna, fusilli, spaghetti, rotini and pici are just some of the hundreds of different pasta shapes on the market, but they all have one thing in common – durum wheat.

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Durum wheat is the main ingredient in dried pasta and is perfect for the manufacture of pasta as the endosperm is hard enough to hold together during milling. It is high in protein and gluten, and the yellow endosperm of durum wheat gives pasta its golden colour. Beware though; this winter pasta might not be so cheap.

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Canada is by far the largest exporter of durum wheat and prices on ICE have soared 45% since the start of 2014. The country produces 12% of the 35m tonnes of durum wheat produced globally per year and exports 80% of that. In fact, Canada’s exports are over half of the total world exports. The US produces just 9% of the world’s total durum wheat in comparison.

While wheat prices around the world are falling, why are durum wheat prices rising so sharply? The main reason for this is the reduced production from both Canadian and US durum wheat causing global production to fall 12% year-over-year to 33.3 m tonnes in 2013/14, a 13-year low.

The decrease in production is due to unfavourable weather conditions. The weather in Canada has been less than perfect for durum wheat all season, starting with delayed plantings due to wet weather and no great improvements since. Weather plays a large role in the production of most grains, which are being affected throughout the autumn by the heavy rains delaying the maize and durum wheat harvests in both Canada and the US, with some areas even seeing heavy snow.

Durum wheat faces even more challenges than other wheat varieties as it is more susceptible to kernel damage and problems with quality and colour during development. This is the case with this year’s supply as not only has production dropped, so has the quality. Grade 1 durum, the grade favored by manufacturing buyers, is not very freely available. A stark contrast to 2013, a year of very high quality durum and the majority of the crop meeting grade 1 standard.

So with such a bad season for durum wheat, be prepared to spend an extra “penne” for your pasta.

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