Italy’s authorities have refrained from capping pasta prices and reassured consumers that the market will readjust after the cost of the staple food rose for two consecutive months at double the rate of inflation.
Industry minister Adolfo Urso had called an emergency meeting on Thursday after the unexpected increase sparked public bewilderment and concern about market speculation hurting consumers.
The price of pasta boxes rose 17.5 per cent in March and 16.5 per cent in April compared to the same period last year, according to Italy’s statistics agency Istat, double the national inflation rate which hit 8.8 per cent last month.
The Thursday meeting included government officials, producers, distributors and consumer’s associations, some of whom had called for price caps or other interventionist measures.
But the ministry held firm and said the market would soon correct itself, given that energy prices are dropping and the cost of raw materials such as durum wheat and semolina is also on a decreasing trend.
“The latest price surveys are already showing the first, albeit weak, signs of price decrease, a sign that the cost of pasta may fall significantly in the coming months,” said a government statement published after the meeting.
Urso said the ministry is doing everything possible to avoid speculations. “We don’t want to stir controversies but we need to be transparent for the benefit of consumers,” he added.
The minister claims the sudden increase was because of producers and distributors selling pasta that was made when the costs of raw materials and energy were higher.
“Companies say that current prices are due to the disposal of stocks, made when the cost of raw materials was higher,” Urso said.
The government of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who came to power last year after campaigning as a hard-right politician attuned to popular concerns, has set up a special unit within the industry ministry to oversee the cost of Italy’s goods and services. Benedetto Mineo, a public servant whose nickname has become Mr Prezzi (Italian for “prices”), has been appointed at the helm of that unit and he chaired the pasta meeting on Thursday.
Pasta is one of Italians’ favourite and most consumed foods. Every year a citizen eats about 23 kilogrammes of pasta, according to consumer association Codacons.
Consumers associations complained after the meeting. The national consumer union described it as a “flop”. According to local media, Assoutenti’s president Furio Truzzi threatened a boycott. He said he expects “a sharp drop in pasta prices soon, if not, consumers will leave it on the shelves. We won’t buy pasta for 15 days”.
Codacons announced it filed a complaint with the competition authority “to ascertain possible illegalities on the trend of pasta’s retail prices”.