The European Pasta Market Calms Down after the Strike of the Pandemic - Global Trade Magazine
  August 9th, 2020 | Written by

The European Pasta Market Calms Down after the Strike of the Pandemic

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  • The crisis of the COVID pandemic does not yet lead to a significant increase in prices.
  • Italy dominates uncooked pasta exports structure, recording 2M tonnes.

IndexBox has just published a new report: ‘EU – Uncooked Pasta – Market Analysis, Forecast, Size, Trends And Insights’. Here is a summary of the report’s key findings.

The Hit of the Pandemic in Early 2020: Hype in Retail Demand against Disrupted Supply Chains

In 2019, the EU uncooked pasta market decreased by -2.5% to $5.2B (IndexBox estimates) for the first time since 2016, thus ending a two-year rising trend. Over the period under review, consumption, however, showed a relatively flat trend pattern. The growth pace was the most rapid in 2018 with an increase of 7% against the previous year. As a result, consumption attained a peak level of $5.3B, and then reduced slightly in the following year.

Population growth and disposable income growth remain the main market drivers, as well as rising international tourism. These factors, taking into account the general dynamics of the country’s economy, determine the development of the HoReCa sector, which also contributes to the growth of the market.

Until 2020, the European economy has been developing steadily for five years, although at a slower pace than in the previous decade. The slowdown in European economic growth was caused by a slowdown in the world’s economy, increased political uncertainty in the world, and trade wars between the United States and China. According to the World Bank outlook from January 2020, the European economy was expected to pick up the growth momentum and increase by from +2.5% to +2.7% per year in the medium term.

In early 2020, however, the European economy entered a period of the crisis caused by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to battle the spread of the virus, most countries in the world implemented quarantine measures that put on halt production and transport activity. The result will be a drop in GDP relative to previous years and a sharp fall in the demand for oil, which led to extremely low prices and heavy oil production cuts. The combination of those factors disrupts economic growth heavily throughout the world, increases unemployment, and lowers consumer spending. The European uncooked pasta market also faces challenges due to the pandemic, however, the market impact varies widely from the consumer level and through the supply chain.

Against the backdrop of the introduction of quarantine restrictions which lead to the closure of production, a halt in transport activity, and a drop in incomes, over March-April of 2020 many countries experienced a booming consumer demand for long-term storage food products, including pasta. This is quite typical: during any crisis, consumers buy more non-perishable products for the future, which applies primarily to cereals and pasta.

The closure of HoReCa threatens pasta suppliers with a loss of sales and forces them to seek new sales channels; however, the drop in demand from restaurants and cafes is to be partially offset by a spike in retail sales. With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, there was an overwhelming demand for long-term essentials including cereals and pasta for a couple of months. Accordingly, increased demand for retail packaging against lower demand for bulk packages for HoReCa. On the other hand, as consumers buy more pasta for the future, there is an increasing need for retail packaging of a larger size.

Quarantine measures and the risk of mass illness of employees can lead to a temporary reduction in pasta production. In addition, a major COVID-related risk comes from the disruption of established international supply chains between durum wheat growers, importers, pasta producers, distributors, and retailers due to asynchronous quarantine measures and restricted transport activity. Problems with the export of paste due to asynchronous transport and cross-border restrictions can lead to overstocking of manufacturers’ warehouses, while the rush demand in retail in case of problems with transport and border crossings can lead to interruptions in supply. On the other hand, grain cultivation is less affected by the virus than the production of fruits and vegetables due to its high mechanization and less dependence on immigrant workers. This will contribute to the stability of the supply of durum wheat for the production of pasta.

With the weakening of quarantine measures and the creation of certain stocks, consumer demand is gradually normalizing, and the market is looking for a new balance of supply and demand. As shown below, gradual stabilization in pasta production and re-establishing cross-border supplies show a sign for the market is gradually finding the ‘new normality’.

Countries which Increased Their Local Output amid the Temporary Disruption of International Supply Chains Are Now Likely to Return to the Italian Pasta

In 2019, the amount of uncooked pasta produced in the European Union rose slightly to 5.5M tonnes, picking up by 1.8% compared with 2018 (IndexBox estimates). The total output volume increased at an average annual rate of +1.6% over the period from 2012 to 2019; the trend pattern remained relatively stable, with somewhat noticeable fluctuations being observed in certain years. The most prominent rate of growth was recorded in 2015 with an increase of 4% against the previous year. The volume of production peaked in 2019 and is expected to retain growth in the immediate term.

Italy (3.5M tonnes) remains the largest uncooked pasta producing country in the European Union, comprising approx. 64% of the total volume. Moreover, uncooked pasta production in Italy exceeded the figures recorded by the second-largest producer, Spain (344K tonnes), tenfold. The third position in this ranking was occupied by Poland (268K tonnes), with a 4.9% share.

From 2012 to 2019, the average annual rate of growth in terms of volume in Italy amounted to +1.9%. The remaining producing countries recorded the following average annual rates of production growth: Spain (+3.3% per year) and Poland (+4.3% per year).

Italy also dominates uncooked pasta exports structure, recording 2M tonnes, which was near 76% of total exports in 2019. It was distantly followed by Spain (125K tonnes), committing a 4.9% share of total exports. Belgium (109K tonnes), Greece (61K tonnes), Germany (55K tonnes) and France (39K tonnes) took a little share of total exports.

On the other hand, the largest uncooked pasta importing markets (in value terms) in the European Union were Germany ($421M), France ($366M) and the UK ($205M), together accounting for 53% of total imports. The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Sweden, Italy, Poland, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Denmark lagged somewhat behind, together comprising a further 34%.

At the beginning of 2020, certain shifts occurred in key market indicators. Thus, the coronavirus pandemic led to a strong increase in production in the pasta industry, which was caused by the rush of consumer demand for long-term storage products against the background of quarantine restrictions. At the same time, in Germany, France, and Spain, which constitute large importers of pasta, production increased even more than in Italy, due to a possible violation of the supply chain due to border closures and transport restrictions.

At the same time, in May, there was a decrease in production volumes in these countries, which indicates the stabilization of demand against the backdrop of easing quarantine restrictions and re-establishing the supply chains. If this trend continues, a significant decrease in imports from Italy is unlikely, and the most likely scenario is a gradual return to the usual supply chains and a gradual stabilization of the market.

The COVID Pandemic Did Not Bull the Producer Prices, Therefore the Pasta Prices in Major Consuming Countries Balance Out as the Rush in Demand Wanes

Against the background of production growth, at the beginning of 2020, there is a slight increase in the prices of pasta producers, but there are no extraordinary rates of price growth. Thus, producer prices rise slightly in Germany; in Italy and Spain, the prices show a stabilization sign after a slight increase in February-April, and in France, they even decline after rising in March-April.

Thus, the crisis of the COVID pandemic does not yet lead to a significant increase in prices, and the market is trying to find a new balance after the rush in March-April and the resulting increase in pasta production. Further price dynamics will depend on the situation with durum wheat supplies and the degree of threat of a new wave of quarantine restrictions. However, since some transport and cross-border restrictions still remain, local small price fluctuations are possible due to the current supply and demand conditions.

As for the prices of durum wheat, they have also been growing since the beginning of the year in almost all of the supplying countries. The only exception is Canada, where prices remained near the same level until April. Further price dynamics are subject to significant uncertainty due to the ongoing pandemic and the threat of worsening weather conditions and abnormal droughts, especially in Eastern Europe. If price increases continue, this will create an additional burden on pasta producers and force them to raise prices or lower margins in order to save consumers.

As for consumer prices for pasta products, their dynamics are largely determined by the same circumstances as the dynamics of production. Thus, with the onset of the pandemic in March-April, there has been a sharp increase in consumer prices for pasta, although producer prices during this period grew much less pronouncedly. This was due to the rush of demand for long-term retail products against the backdrop of strict quarantine restrictions, which, together with disruptions in supply chains, led to temporary local shortages of products. In May-June, as the situation improves and quarantine measures gradually soften, consumer prices stabilized or even decline.

Thus, the factor of consumer excitement is gradually disappearing, and in the future a stabilization or even some decrease in prices can be expected against the background of increased production, finding a new balance of demand and supply. However, due to the fact that some restrictions on transport activity persist, small price fluctuations in local markets due to disruptions in the supply chain are also possible.

Source: IndexBox AI Platform