Spaghetti monster price rises

My friend Zadok is at work, warning us about the imminent parousia!  To him I tip my biretta,… o{]:¬)  while there is still time.

Here is the article Zadok points us to.

My emphases and comments.

Angry Italians to go on national pasta strike
By Malcolm Moore in Rome

On the 13 September, there will be no spaghetti, fettucine, farfalle or rigatoni in Italy, as the country goes on its first-ever pasta strike

Angry Italians are downing their forks in response to a 30 per cent price rise in the nation’s favourite food, along with steep rises in the price of coffee, mozzarella, bread, biscuits and schoolbooks.  [This is no joke.  Some years back, food was my lowest expense in the scheme of things.  It rapidly became one of the highest.]

A second strike over the increase in the price of a cup of coffee in a cafe, from 70 euro cents (50p) to one euro, has also been threatened. [I might even take to the streets for that!]

According to Italy’s four largest consumer groups, the average household in the Bel Paese will be stung for an extra £700 [!] this year on their shopping.

"Giving up pasta for the day will be a symbolic gesture," said a spokesman for the consumer groups. "Italians should not buy any pasta that day, and try their best not to eat it at home."

Most Italians eat pasta at least once a day, and consume around 54 kilograms over the course of the year. [The old "standard" measure for a portion of pasta for a man at a meal used to be 100g, but I think that is lower now.  I usually go with about 75g.  Usually we weigh pasta to measure it.]

According to a recent study, many of them prefer pasta to all other pleasures. A survey by SWG, a polling company, found that nearly half of all Italian men and women would never give it up and would [Just to put this in perspective….] rather have a plate of spaghetti than sex. 

Consequently, the strike-organisers are prepared for serious withdrawal symptoms. Emergency stands offering free bread and milk will be set up in all major Italian cities for those in need of carbohydrates.  ["And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth."]

The pasta-makers said the reason for the 30 per cent price rise was a shortage of wheat because farmers were switching to produce crops for the biofuel industry. [I HATE ETHANOL!   I HATE IT!  It is screwing up the political debate in the US, where politicians are forced to take the Ethanol pledge in Iowa for the sake of their stupid caucus.  It screws up engines, costs too much to produce, and pollutes more than fuel without it.  Where does this get good?  And now… the parousia.  I used to think the end would come before the end of the 7th game of a World Series between the Red Sox and the Cubs… but now I am not so sure.] Currently, a half-kilogram (1.1lb) pack of pasta costs around 70 euro cents (50p) in Italy and 70p to £1.10 in the UK.

However, a spokesman for the consumer groups said the rises were rampant speculation by the producers.

"The statistics show the price of grain has now fallen, but the price of bread, for example, keeps rising, without any link to the wheat price. According to our analysis, bread, fresh pasta and deserts have gone up by 12, 20 and 70 per cent respectively in the last year, while milk has increased by over 300 per cent."

The threat of the strike drew has drawn a rebuke from the prime minister, Romano Prodi. "There is no justification for the alarms over price rises," he said. In fact, he said the prices "are in some cases going down substantially".  [Ummm…. liar?]

He warned, however, that the "the price of prime materials should not be influencing, in a significant way, the final price that consumers pay. There are ample margins for improving efficiency to recuperate the money, just as occurs in other European countries."


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Father, I don’t know where you get your information about ethanol being a greater pollutant than conventional fuel. But you’re right about the effect of demand for ethanol on the food supply.

    The basic premise is to reduce dependence on foreign oil. And yet, if petroleum companies pay better than food packagers, the former will dictate the price, and the latter will have to raise theirs. Some people will go hungry so that others can fill their SUVs. The American corn belt has been shrinking, and will have to gear up again to meet the coming demand, and they are by no means ready.

    For now, ethanol in the USA is confined to the Midwest, where distribution infrastructure is taxed the least. As to the future… well, I just don’t know.

  2. Jacob says:

    Ethanol is mass produced in a way that creates industrial pollution. Now some will say that ‘fermenting’ is easy and painless, but ethanol is not produced naturally, but rather speedily and in mass quantities.

    As for its role in the Iowa political process, being from Iowa myself, I’d say that given the recent fuss over gay marriage and the licenses issued briefly this last week, something else may be coming into play here by the time all is said and done.

    As a city dweller, I don’t think much of it. I’m sure though that my farmer brethren in the country do think about it a lot. But I don’t see why candidates should dwell on it. The biggest places are the cities. Des Moines and Cedar Rapids are financial centers and Waterloo and Davenport are manufacturing. If I were a Dem, playing to the unions would seem to be far more effective than playing to the farmer base.

  3. Dan O says:

    I am also originally from Iowa and I won’t try to defend ethanol because I think there are problems with its production. However, I hate being held hostage by the Middle East to the tune of billions of dollars and thousands of American lives. I’d rather suffer the consequences of ethanol than fighting wars for oil.

  4. RBrown says:

    1. The War in Iraq is as much a consequence of American involvement with Israel as it is with the doing business with the Oil Producers. I always say that US Middle policy can be described in one word: Isroil.

    2. The US failure to build more nuclear power plants, not to use natural gas to run cars and buses, and to junk electric car technology has nothing to do with the Middle East.

    3. The price of certain things in Italy was always puzzling. Raw chicken was 4-5 times as much as the price in the US. I can understand why beef would cost more (lack of grazing land), but chickens are fairly inexpensive to produce. Someone was pocketing the money–I assume middle men.

    4. I often put 15% ethanol in my car, but I think the ethanol bill is little else than political posturing. A Pres (and VP) from Oil rich Texas painted himself in a corner by turning the Iraq war over to an arrogant incompetent (Dumsfeld) and needed a political gesture to try to restore some power.

    5. I wonder whether the big ethanol push will increase the cost of popcorn (Oh no!) and clothes (less land in cotton, more in corn).

  5. Unitas says:

    I’d have to agree with Dan O.

    But, how about this:

    Aren’t there some super-steroids they pump into veggies to make them huge, so you get more food per acre of land?

    Well there must be this same type of steroids but only more effective but makes them unfit for human consumption. Use these on the Ethanol crops so that they can meet their demands with the Frankenstein veggies or grains so they’ll leave the regular supply alone and prices won’t increase. But I’m no biologist.

    Also, is the ethanol production you’re speaking of there only using wheat? As far as I’m aware you can use wheat, corn, or sugar-cane. Perhaps a more allotted requisition for ethanol production can help diffuse the rising costs? Oh well, it’s not like I can do anything about it, haha!

  6. Andrew says:

    Why don’t we live where we work? Why commute back and forth so much? It’s nice to walk. You meet people on the way.

  7. michigancatholic says:

    Ethanol doesn’t come from the middle east. That’s the whole bottom line. It’s short term thinking to compare the two as if infrastructure wasn’t involved.

    The price of bread has gone up dramatically in the past few years here too. Blame globalism, that’s the cause. Markets are changing and it’s not a good thing. We buy too much foreign junk (and that IS the proper word for it).

  8. Dan O says:

    Fr. Z says, “I HATE ETHANOL! I HATE IT! It is screwing up the whole political debate in the US, where politicians are forced to take the Ethanol pledge in Iowa for the sake of their stupid caucus.

    Fr. Z, You have been in Italy too long. Ethanol is not screwing up th whole politcal debate in the US, politicians are doing that on their own. In my opinion there is no real politcal debate in the US at all. Politicians have no backbone and only say what they think will get them elected. There are no statesmen around today. The ethanol pledge may be an symptom or an example of this, but it certainly is not the cause.

  9. michigancatholic says:

    Andrew, it’s not feasible in most of the US because of the way our infrastructure and geography is.

    American cities are not on the European scale. Thus many people here who work in downtown storefronts can’t afford to live in nearby buildings. Businesses often locate where they are for historical reasons or to get traffic past the front door. Sometimes they locate in the slums to get tax breaks. Sometimes they are out on the main drag to get sign space on the sky as one drives by.

    Add to that the fact that everything is impossibly complicated to get to, and far apart enough that one needs a car in most of the US. Logistics is a big deal. Aggravating but that’s how it is. We do not have decent public transportation and a combination of economics and social factors mitigates against it.

    It just doesn’t work in a “small village” way here, like it or not. I don’t know where you are, but the contrast between the “European model” and the “American model” is great and it would be like starting all over from scratch to fix it. It’s probably not going to happen.

    On the good side, Americans are very independent and we manage. Terrorism here is a nightmare for the terrorist. We don’t “herd” very well and it is very dangerous (for the terrorist and his group) to threaten people under American circumstances.

  10. Sid Cundiff says:

    Food has been higher in Europe than the US for 40 years. The only thing I find cheaper in Europe is quality cheese. The blame is not so much on Ethanol – however woeful our abuse of fossil fuels – as on the European Union, a cartel designed to keep European farmers rich. Free trade = lower prices.

  11. Papabile says:

    Father, ethanol is crewing up the political debate in the US? Huh?

    As one who has worked in politics for more than 15 years, and currently workd for Congress, I can say with some assuredness, ethanol is one of the FEW bipartisan issues out there that causes little debate.

    The only debate with ethanol is who can outdo eachother when it comes to subsidies.

    Now, does ethanol cause problems? Yes, I think we could say that with some assuredness. It raises the marginal price of corn, ultimately increasing beef prices, eggs, and milk etc. significantly.

    A bigger reason for the increase in spaghetti prices is due to the global downturn in wheat production.

  12. This is what I do not understand. We have ample farmland, and the government even pays farmers not to grow food for fear of upsetting the market prices. Why can’t the government pay farmers to grow extra corn and wheat for their stupid waste of time ethanol projects?

    You are right that ethanol is screwing up the whole food supply. If the government was seriously interested in cutting our addiction to foreign oil they would encourage local economies and stop building towns and cities that require so much driving for simple things. By establishing local economies food wouldn’t have to travel 3000 miles to find a market, which is far better than just burning the food via ethanol.

  13. Food has been higher in Europe than the US for 40 years. The only thing I find cheaper in Europe is quality cheese. The blame is not so much on Ethanol – however woeful our abuse of fossil fuels – as on the European Union, a cartel designed to keep European farmers rich. Free trade = lower prices.

    That’s just silly. Perhaps you should visit some of the European farmers and examine their wealth. Farmers don’t make any money off of it. The money goes to bureaucrats and shipping companies. Free trade=men poor and out of work while the rich get richer, because of the power of wealth applied in an unrestrained manner. Free trade has been condemned by 7 Popes, called a “poisoned spring” by Pope Pius XI, and is an unCatholic idea all around.

  14. RBrown says:

    As one who has worked in politics for more than 15 years, and currently workd for Congress, I can say with some assuredness, ethanol is one of the FEW bipartisan issues out there that causes little debate.

    The only debate with ethanol is who can outdo eachother when it comes to subsidies.
    Comment by Papabile

    That ethanol is bi-partisan indicates that being in favor of it is a political winner.

    But shrewd politics is not the same as good policy.

  15. Papabile says:


    I agree with you.

    However, my point was that ethanol IS NOT SCREWING UP the political process here.

    Quite frankly, I dislike the whole idea of nationalized welfare for Iowa et al. and would eliminate ethanol in general as an additive requirement because it 1) increases the cost of gas, and 2) does very little if nothing to decrease emissions because of the 15% downward trend in efficiency due to the ethanol add.

  16. TerryC says:

    Of course the bottom line is does it take more fertilizer, made from petroleum products, and energy, possible supplied by petroleum products, to process the ethanol, than we save in oil by using it?
    That and the fact they we couldn’t possible grow enough corn to replace even a small amount of the amount of oil that we import. SO that makes it all window dressing.

  17. Franklin Jennings says:

    Its never a good idea to use your food supply for transportation.

  18. Sylvia says:

    I just have one question: if the Italiand don’t have pasta, what will they eat??

Comments are closed.