Up Front: FOOD FIGHTS
SPAGHETTI WESTERN: THE PASTA SHOOT-OUT
AMERICAN PASTA MAKERS are accusing Italian importers of dumping. Result: Punitive tariffs may be on the way, hiking prices drastically for such Italian brands as De Cecco, La Molisana, and Barilla. Three U.S. pasta potentates--Borden, Hershey, and Gooch--have filed a complaint with the Commerce Dept., accusing 50 Italian rivals of taking government subsidies from Rome to undersell the Americans. If Commerce concurs, as expected, the tariffs could hit by yearend.
While it lacks the drama of the multibillion-dollar U.S.-Japan face-off over autos, the pasta flare-up has a special acrimony. In late April, Canada closed its borders to Italian pasta. Imports account for only 6% of the $3.9 billion U.S. pasta market, but are rising 11% yearly, with per capita consumption at a record 20 pounds. The Italians are looking for overseas expansion because consumption has topped out at home (60 pounds).
The Italians, who deny the dumping charges, gripe that U.S. producers want to hog the growing American market for themselves. How ironic, they sniff, that American pastas are given Italian names and sport Italian flags on the package.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT, WITH OLUWABUNMI SHABI John Rossant