Consumers in Gulf and North African countries are increasingly fond of pasta, according to the latest data published by the association of producers of sweets and pasta within Italy’s Confindustria business union, Aidepi.
The association noted that in 2013 consumption of Italian-made pasta across the entire Mediterranean area registered a 5.8% growth, from 434,087 tons imported in 2012 to 459,273 tons bought by Mediterranean countries in 2013. The growth was worth 2.3 million euros on 2012.
The most interesting data, the association found, concerned countries which have not been major importers in the past but promise to be good clients in the future. Libya in 2013 imported over 17,000 tons of Italian pasta from the 5,850 imported the previous year – a 201.5% growth.
Tunisia also registered a significant growth, from 159 tons in 2012 to 3,456 last year, up 2073.6%.
Also on the rise were imports in Algeria (+49.8%), Egypt (+14.6%), Jordan (+24.6%), Israel (+6%) and the Palestinian territories (+158.3%). Imports declined only in Morocco (-21.2%).
Furio Bragagnolo, president of Pasta Zara, Italy’s top pasta exporter (in 106 countries) and second-largest pasta producer after Barilla, told ANSAmed that ”this product is eaten by those with and without money alike because it has a reasonable prince and is similar to couscous and rice and therefore can be appreciated by all”.
Zara has an annual production of 250,000 tons, 92% of which is exported, and an annual turnover of 240 million euros.
The so-called Arab springs were a setback for pasta exports, though business is now improving, he said.
”In the first six months of 2011, sales to Egypt sharply dropped. Thankfully, thinks are improving”.
Sales to Libya are also on the rise, a market which Pastificio Zara – four generations of pasta makers – is eyeing closely.
”If it were to become stable politically, it would give great rewards”, said Bragagnolo.
Moving more towards the East, Gulf countries are also good markets, with the United Arab Emirates buying 43.6% more pasta from 2012 to 2013, followed by Qatar (+25.7%) and Kuwait (+10%).
The only country to import less was Saudi Arabia (-13.9%).
Here, two factors were key: the increasing number of foreigners – expats, tourists and workers – living in the region and the growing popularity of Italian food linked among high-end connoisseurs.
”There are high-level consumers in the Gulf and Middle East who are able to appreciate high-end products and the difference between pasta extruded through bronze and Teflon”, said Bragagnolo. This is why, he concluded, in the ”Middle East, North Africa and Gulf countries we want to double sales by 2018”.