Global exports of durum wheat surged in the 2019/20 trade year (TY) to 8.9 million tons, nearly returning to 2017/18 levels. Canada, consistently the top exporter of durum wheat, continues to dominate global trade with a nearly 60-percent share of global exports. During its 2019/20 market year (MY, Aug/Jul basis), Canada exported a record 5.4 million tons of durum on a 5.0- million-ton crop, drawing stocks down to the lowest level in decades.
The boost in global durum trade was partly in response to a strong surge in demand for pasta as the COVID-19 pandemic prompted shifts in consumption patterns. Italy, the global leader in pasta production, drove demand for durum wheat upwards as pasta factories boosted capacity in order to meet spikes in consumer demand. Italy imported a total of 2.1 million tons of durum wheat in 2019/20.
Despite durum making up approximately 55 percent of its domestic wheat crop, Italy continues to import durum from foreign sources due to lower prices, much of which is used in pasta production and then re-exported.
In an effort to protect domestic wheat farmers from foreign competition, the Italian government adopted country of origin labeling (COOL) measures in 2017, requiring Italian dry pasta to identify the countries where the durum wheat was harvested and milled on its packaging. While durum imports dipped in 2017/18, potentially as a result of the COOL measures, they began recovering in 2019/20.
Canada exported 1.1 million tons to Italy last year, maintaining its dominant market share despite significant gains by the United States, which increased its durum exports to Italy nearly four-fold. Sizable durum crops are expected for both Canada and the United States in 2020/21.
According to Statistics Canada, Canada’s durum crop is projected to reach 6.1 million tons in 2020/21—the highest in 4 years— as planted area increased 16 percent. Meanwhile, United States production of durum is forecast at 1.9 million tons, a 28 percent increase from last year.
However, production gains will not translate to higher U.S. exports in 2020/21 with domestic consumption of durum wheat forecast up sharply.