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ITALIAN PASTA CONQUERS ABROAD: EXPORT UP BY 48% HALFWAY THROUGH 2008
It is, along with pizza, synonymous with Italian food. But pasta is not only one of the most versatile foods that Italian food culture has brought to world-wide gastronomy. It is also an economic sector that contributes significantly to the Italian import-export trade. In 2007 1.7 million tons of pasta ended up abroad, worth approximately 1.4 billion Euro. The Italian pasta export trend has been growing constantly for years and the European Union is its main outlet. The first market is Germany, with a quantity share of 20.41% in 2007. In second place is France (13.74%), followed by the United Kingdom (12.63%), United States (9.47%) and Japan (4.25%). These five countries alone account for 60.51% of Italian pasta exports.
2007 went down as a particularly difficult year for the industry with a substantial hold in volumes produced, estimated at approximately 3.2 million tons by Italy's pasta producer association, the Unione Industriali Pastai Italiani. Italy’s performance in foreign markets, currently accounting for over 53% of national production, positively affected the total result. 2008 was, if possible, even more difficult for the Italian pasta industry: the economic downturn, which has affected food consumption, and the durum wheat price boom have helped to compress company margins.
Yet, as reported in mid-October by Coldiretti, in the first six months of 2008 exports of both fresh and dried Italian pasta increased by 48%, with 50% in the European Union, going through the roof with a value of one billion Euro. According to surveys carried out by Coldiretti, the Italian pasta trade seems to be in contrast with the general economic crisis and is also doing exceptionally well in Asian markets, where the export value has doubled. The trend that had already emerged in 2007 therefore reaffirmed itself in the first half of 2008: the new Asian markets are those that record the most significant growth rates. India in particular stands out: up by 37.50% in quantity and 57.35% in value.
The Italian pasta industry includes dozens of producers, mostly SMEs: alongside the famous Barilla, De Cecco, Di Vella and Agnesi (Colussi) the majority are represented by numerous medium and small companies that distribute the main traditional brands, such as Amato, Cocco, Delverde, Garofalo, La Molisana, Rummo, and Valdigrano. One of the most important districts is Casoli Fara San Martino (Chieti) in Abruzzo, which revolves around four historical pasta factories, on which a linked industry of over 70 companies depend, being involved in every activity of the chain, including services and packaging. A production base that, in 2007, recorded a growing export of 12.9%, has around 950 employees.
The leading producer in the Abruzzo district is Fratelli De Cecco, at the centre of an area that, through the years, has become a real industrial district. The company has totalled revenues in the past year of 278.6 million Euro (33.5% is from export to 87 different countries). Turnover increased by 12.7% compared with 247.1 million in 2006. The second largest Abruzzo producer is the Delverde pasta factory (www.delverde.it), whose sales in 2007 were around a tenth of that of De Cecco (30 million Euro), but recorded a higher percentage in progress (up yearly 25%). For the Cavalier Giuseppe Cocco pasta factory it is even smaller: their sales are worth approximately 1.6% of the district’s total turnover. But the key to success for the Cocco pasta factory was their choice to link distribution to dealers specialising in superior products, looking to satisfy high-end consumers. Another local success that deserves a mention is the Bioalimenta pasta factory, which has found a niche positioning by specialising in gluten-free pasta.
The news of recent weeks regarding the leading company in Abruzzo is the official launch of Italian pasta on the Stock Exchange. The De Cecco decision had been discussed for months, but around mid-October 2008 the assembly of shareholders approved the project that should lead the Italian company to Piazza Affari (“Business Square” in Milan). The operation should be completed before the end of 2009. However the company is aware that the current market conditions could also force Fratelli De Cecco to review the timing, to avoid entering the Stock Market in a period that is proving to be too tough on the markets.