REFILE-Barilla to gift staff $13 mln for producing food through pandemic

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MILAN, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Italy’s Barilla will pay a total of 11 million euros ($13 million) in bonuses this year to reward its 8,400 workers for ensuring food production despite the coronavirus crisis, the world’s biggest pasta maker said on Friday.

The first Western country hit by the virus, Italy has seen 67,220 COVID-19 fatalities since its outbreak emerged in February, the highest toll in Europe and the fifth highest in the world.

The government ordered non-essential factories to shut to reduce the risk of contagion between March and April, when the first wave of the virus hit the country.

Food producers and other key manufactures were allowed to continue working provided they put in place special measures to protect workers.

“The combined efforts of our workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic guaranteed the continuity of operations in all production sites,” said Chairman Guido Barilla in a statement.

Barilla has faced increased demand for its products, especially pasta sauces, the group said, adding the 11 million euro will be on the top of a bonus Barilla traditionally pays to workers at the end of the year.

In 2020 the pasta maker also donated money and food to health organisations and people in difficulty. Among these grants, the group gave $500,000 to non-profit association “The Cure Alliance” to fund research for a therapy against COVID-19 based on stem cells.

$1 = 0.8159 euros Reporting by Francesca Landini Editing by Chizu Nomiyama