A top durum buyer may slash demand

Turkey is the world’s second largest exporter of pasta but it may soon require less durum to make the product. | Reuters/Vincent West photo

Turkey is expected to need less of the crop as it allows more wheat in pasta and for it to be exported to more countries

Turkey has a new pasta processing regime that could dramatically reduce the amount of durum used in making the popular product.

In May, the Turkish government implemented new rules allowing for the increased use of soft wheat in pasta destined for export.

Millers can now use up to 100 percent soft wheat when making pasta for export markets, up from 30 percent previously, said Filippo Bertuzzi, senior analyst with Areté, an Italian agri-food intelligence company.

The government is also expanding the list of countries where soft wheat-based pasta can be sold.

In the past, millers were able to import soft wheat duty-free under Turkey’s inward processing regime as long as it was used to make pasta destined for Africa.

The expanded list includes countries in the Middle East and South America.

Bertuzzi said the upshot is there will likely be a steep reduction in how much durum is used to make pasta in Turkey, which is the world’s second largest exporter of the product behind Italy.

Areté is forecasting a 300,000-tonne drop in use, but other analysts believe it will be closer to 400,000 tonnes.

That reduction will be offset this year by a short crop in Turkey caused by severe drought, so there might not be a big drop in durum imports.

But in future years, the new policy has the potential to impact demand from one of Canada’s top customers. Turkey bought 378,947 tonnes of Canadian durum in 2020 and 605,378 tonnes in 2019.

Durum consumption in the European Union is also expected to be down in 2021 after a smoking hot 2020 caused by a COVID-related demand surge for pasta. Consumption is expected to return to 2019 levels, said Bertuzzi.

Areté is forecasting 7.5 million tonnes of EU durum production, slightly below the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s forecast of 7.7 million tonnes.

Either way, the crop will be well below the previous five-year average of 8.4 million tonnes.

Italy produces about half of the EU’s durum. An April frost reduced yields in southern Italy while drought compounded the problem in the central part of the country.

There are also quality problems in the EU, particularly in France, which is the second largest producer of the crop. Harvest rain damaged much of the crop.

French grain group Soufflet said only 35 percent of the soft wheat crop is achieving the required milling standard for test weights, while durum is frequently showing poor falling numbers.

“For sure they have a quality issue this year,” said Bertuzzi.

There are also quality problems in south and central Italy, but the north and extreme south have top-notch crops. Greece also had quality issues.

Algeria had a poor crop, but it has ample reserves to draw upon. He expects about one million tonnes of imports from that country.

Morocco had a big rebound in production, but it will likely import its usual 700,000 to 750,000 tonnes because it prefers the quality of imported durum.

Tunisia is in good shape but will probably import its usual 650,000 tonnes, depending on North American availability.

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