Dubai: Anyone with a craving for fine Italian food has a problem finding an inexpensive restaurant. Though much of Italian staples will not make it as high-end cuisine, they are not value meals either.

The problem is that production costs of Italian food items cannot go any lower. It could do with the fact that these are associated with certain traditions, and that many of the producing regions’ economies and job opportunities are based on sticking with such traditions.

“There is no way to reduce cost,” said Riccardo Felicetti, president of The Italian Association of Confectionery and Pasta Industries (or Aidepi as it is known). It has more than 20 members who represent 75 per cent of Italian pasta production.

“After 500 years of creativity and innovation, we probably got to a point in which cost reduction is not possible without reducing the quality of the product,” Felicetti said at an event to mark the 20th World Pasta Day, being held in Dubai for the first time.

“I think we have to understand that payment of farmers, millers (and) producers create value for final consumer.”

Italy is the leading country in anything to do with pasta and well ahead of the US, Turkey and Russia. Each year, Italy produces nearly 4 million tonnes of pasta, with 56 per cent of production headed out as exports. Other European countries import the lion share of Italian pasta, but there are also “big markets outside Europe”.

Exports of pasta in the last 25 years has risen from 740,000 tonnes to over 2 million tonnes a year. As it is, the base ingredient used to make pasta — durum wheat — generates nearly eight billion euros for the country.

Emilia Romagna is among the top regions producing pasta, with food products constituting the second largest component of its GDP after automotive manufacturing.

While Italy is at the top of pasta producers worldwide, Italians dominate as its consumers. According to Paolo Barilla, President of the International Pasta Organization (IPO), the per capita consumption is the highest in Italy. “We consume between 25 and 27 kilos per capita per year — it means 270 dishes a year of pasta. Most (Italians) eat it every day.”

Commenting on the price of pasta in Italy and abroad, Barilla said “it is the most affordable dish you might have in Italy. In other countries, prices could be double or triple.”

Dubai’s Italian connection

In 2017, Italian producers exported over 300 million euros worth of items to the UAE alone, with a major portion of this being high-quality pasta. There are nearly 300 Italian restaurants in Dubai, said Italian officials.