Durum wheat is grown worldwide, although its relative economic importance varies from region to region. World production has remained roughly constant over the past 15 years. However, the EU relative contribution to world production has shown a consistent increase: from 17% in the early 1980s to more than 25% in the first half of the 1990s. This increase is largely to be ascribed to Greece and Spain joining the EU. European production today is substantially equivalent to that of the large North American conglomerate (i.e. the US and Canada).
On international markets, EU durum production does not contribute to the formation of global cereal surpluses. Instead, the European transformation industry continues to import, mainly from the US and Canada, sizeable quantities of durum. In this respect, Italy in particular, with its pasta and semolina production, represents the main EU market.
Within the European continent, Italian durum production has always been prominent, both in terms of quantity and quality. During the last 20 years, however, Italy's relative contribution to European global durum production has shown a marked decrease down to about 50-60%. This decline can be attributed not so much to a dwindling of Italian production (which actually increased), as to a larger contribution from other European countries.
Over the same 20-year period, the Italian durum growing area has been fairly constant at about 1.6-1.7 Mha. The increase in durum production is the result of higher productivity of the varieties grown: from 2.1 t ha~1 in 1975 to an average of 2.8 in the last 5 years, i.e. an increase of 25%.
The increase in Italian durum productivity observed in recent years may be attributed both to an improvement in cultivation technologies and to the breeding and release of more productive varieties.
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