January 20, 2012


Italy's corn, wheat imports up



Spurred by increased feed-making demand, Italy's corn imports surged 38.5% on year in the first 10 months of 2011 while soft wheat imports jumped 10.6%, Italian industry bodies said on Thursday (Jan 19).


Corn imports rose to 2,089,123 tonnes in the January-October period from 1,508,643 tonnes in the same period of 2010, while soft wheat imports rose to 4,430,704 tonnes from 4,007,832 tonnes, cereals body Anacer said in a statement.


"There was a rise in feed consumption and a slight increase in (Italian) feed output last year, especially for pigs because of a recovery in demand for pork meat and products," Giulio Gavino Usai, head of economic division of Italian feed makers association Assalzoo, told Reuters.


Italian feed makers stuck to using corn for their products despite high corn prices last year because it is hard to replace corn in feed for pigs and poultry, Usai said.


Benchmark US corn gained nearly 3% on the year in 2011, while wheat fell 18%, prompting feed makers in some countries to increase their use of cheaper soft wheat.


"Our industry's peculiarity is that we use traditional ways of making feed, i.e. unlike in other countries, we use more of noble product, grain, than of sub products, like bran. For many types of feed you cannot replace corn with other cereals," Usai said.


Italy buys corn abroad to cover 25-30% of its demand, with almost all of its corn imports used to make animal feed and most of the inflows coming from Hungary and Romania, according to Assalzoo.


Anacer did not provide details of grain import origins.


Quality problems of Italian corn, such as higher-than-acceptable level of mycotoxins in some crop areas, have also prompted feed makers to seek better quality corn abroad, despite increased overall crop in the country, Usai said.


Corn output in Italy, one of the major producers in Europe, rose nearly 12% to 9.58 million tonnes in 2011, according to Italy's statistics agency ISTAT.


Imports of durum wheat used for making pasta fell 10.8% to 1,880,259 tonnes in the first 10 months of 2011, while barley imports rose to 788,708 tonnes from 720,636 tonnes a year earlier, Anacer said.


Total imports of cereals and oilseeds to Italy rose 5% to 14,722,747 tonnes worth EUR4.34 billion (US$5.6 billion), it said.


Exports of rice from Italy, Europe's biggest producer, fell 9% to 606,585 tonnes hit by smaller exports to Britain, Poland, Turkey, and Syria while sales to France and Slovakia rose, it said.


Exports of soft wheat flour rose to 58,705 tonnes from 50,142 tonnes. Sales of Italian durum wheat semolina abroad fell to 67.194 tonnes from 75.186 tonnes.


Italy's exports of pasta rose 2.9% to 1,372,330 tonnes while exports of cereals-based animal feed rose 5.8% to 184,772 tonnes.

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