Italy demands origin labels for pasta and rice

All packets of pasta and rice sold in Italy will have to include labels of origin showing where the produce was grown, the government ruled recently, in a move it said was aimed at protecting local farmers. The agriculture and industry ministers signed a decree ordering the new labelling policy, saying it would run in an experimental fashion for two years, and criticising the European Union for not introducing the measure across the 28-nation bloc. Italy is the biggest producer of rice in Europe. The land dedicated to cultivation is 234.300 hectares, there are more than 140 varieties of rice and about 1.500.000 tonnes is produced every year. The rice sector has been in crisis since the introduction of the EU’s Everything But Arms trade initiative which allows imports into the EU from least developed countries tariff free and without quantitative restrictions. This has given rise to a massive increase in imports of rice from Vietnam and Cambodia resulting in a significant drop in market prices of some varieties of rice and, consequently, a reduction – in 2014 – of the cultivation of certain types of varieties using over 12,000 hectares. To try and counter the imports producers have been calling for better labelling of foodstuffs containing rice so as to indicate to consumers the true origin of the raw materials. The Italian government decree also included that pasta packaging must reveal where the wheat was grown and milled into semolina for pastamaking. Rice packaging will state where the rice was grown, treated and packaged.