There Could Be Another Pasta Shortage, Experts Warn
Grocery stores were rocked by shortages across departments in 2020, and unfortunately, 2021 started off in a similar fashion. A report released a few days before the new year revealed that one specific pasta shape had virtually disappeared.
The pasta maker Barilla acknowledged that its production of bucatini—a long pasta with a hole in the middle like a straw—was spirling like rotini because of a huge increase in demand. More individuals began to cook meals at home—and what's easier to make than pasta?
De Cecco, another big pasta manufacturer, apparently ran into issues with the Food and Drug Administration. "De Cecco bucatini was placed on import alert because it was misbranded as it failed to meet the required standard of identity," an agency spokesperson told Grub Street last year. "Specifically, the iron level in De Cecco bucatini was below the designated level as required by the standard of enriched macaroni."
Both companies said their bucatini would eventually make a comeback. However, the overall pasta market isn't looking so positive as we near 2022.
Related: There's a Shortage of These 5 Popular Grocery Items Right Now
As you know, pasta is made from flour—but not just any flour. Durum wheat is an ideal ingredient to use for pasta and bread. Thick with a high protein content and gluten strength, it's the hardest wheat. When ground up, it's called semolina flour.
While North Dakota is the primary location for growing durum wheat in the U.S., Canada produces two-thirds of the world's supply, followed by Europe. Both of those areas have been hit hard by unusual weather this year, severely impacting the crop, according to the French outlet The Connexion.
Heavy rainfalls in Europe are affecting the durum wheat stash in France, where farmers are worried about dwindling supplies.
"We have about 12 tonnes left here, and with that we can make, depending on the type of pasta, between 15 days to three weeks' worth more or less," Gilles Reichstadt, the manager for the Usine Thirion factory in northeast France, told the news outlet. "We are supposed to be getting 25 tonnes delivered in September, so we're hoping that will arrive."
Canada, however, is facing the opposite problem. A huge heatwave and drought have knocked out 30% of the country's crops. Prices for durum wheat have already skyrocketed this year, up to around $350 per metric ton. This time last year, it was about $294, government data from Alberta shows.
Jason Bull, the director of Eurostar Commodities, an ingredient supplier based in West Yorkshire, England, told Bakeryandsnacks.com that "this is a dire situation" and "the market is completely out of control." In addition to higher prices that will be passed on to consumers, Bull added that a pasta shortage was expected to hit supermarket shelves. Eventually, he added, it could come down to making pasta with soft wheat flour instead of durum wheat.
This is on par with what Kroger executives are predicting for the rest of 2021. Recently, they said the cost of groceries would be about 2% to 3% more than usual through the end of the year.
Eat This, Not That! has reached out to Barilla and De Cecco for more information about potential product shortages.
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