| WINNIPEG, Manitoba/ROME
WINNIPEG, Manitoba/ROME May 10 Italy has
formally asked the European Commission to allow it to require
country of origin labels on pasta sold there, raising alarm for
Canadian durum wheat exporters who fear the move will dampen
Italian Agriculture Minister Maurizio Martina tweeted on
Monday that Italy had sent a decree to Brussels spelling out
proposals to label pasta and rice packets to show the origin of
the raw materials. Rome had send a draft decree of its intent in
December, but had not until now taken the formal step.
Italy is proposing that pasta packets show where the wheat
was grown and where it was milled.
Canadian exporters and farmers fear the move would depress
prices in Canada, the biggest global durum exporter, as it would
require Italian pasta makers to segregate supplies by country.
Italy's move comes as a Canada-Europe free trade deal moves to
its final stages of approval.
"It's something that causes us significant concern because
it will increase the cost of moving durum into Italy," said Cam
Dahl, president of industry group Cereals Canada, whose members
include grain traders Cargill Ltd, Richardson International and
Louis Dreyfus Corp.
Italy is Canada's second-biggest foreign durum buyer so far
in 2016-17, purchasing 522,000 tonnes from August through March,
according to Canadian government data. Annual Canadian sales to
Italy are worth some C$248 million ($181.46 million), based on
average export volumes and International Grains Council price
The European Commission said it had not yet received
official notification from Italy and that it would then have
three months to make observations. If there are no observations,
the member state is free to go ahead with its plans.
European lawmakers have shown an increasing appetite for
labeling due to consumer demands for information about food, and
Italy has also said labeling would help its pasta industry
better compete with foreign competition.
Canadian durum farmers last year grew their biggest-ever
crop. They are expected to sow less durum this spring after
disease downgraded quality last year.
Cereals Canada will travel to Italy late this month to meet
with pasta industry groups and to Brussels to meet with European
Canadian Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay could not be
immediately reached for comment. Canada and Mexico won a similar
labeling fight over United States meat labels in late 2015.
India and Thailand are the biggest global rice exporters.
($1 = 1.3667 Canadian dollars)
(Additional reporting by Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels; Editing
by Chris Reese)