Russia to boost durum wheat output after Putin's criticism of pasta prices

MOSCOW, Dec 23 (Reuters) - Russia will more than double its output of durum wheat, used in the production of pasta and couscous, to 1.8 million tonnes by 2025, its agriculture ministry said, following President Vladimir Putin's criticism of rising pasta prices.

Putin criticised a rise in food prices earlier in December as the COVID-19 crisis squeezes Russians' incomes. Officials responded with a list of measures to stabilise food price inflation, including a grain export quota and a wheat export tax.

Russia, one of the world's largest wheat exporters, produced about 700,000 tonnes of durum this year which is enough to cover the country's consumption, the agriculture ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

Russia harvested a large grain crop this year, and growth in pasta prices is unacceptable as the unemployment rate is up, incomes are down and Russians in poorer regions than Moscow are eating "navy-style macaroni", Putin said in December, referring to a Soviet-legacy dish - cheap spaghetti with fried canned meat on top.

Russian farmers raised prices for durum this year due to higher production costs, the agriculture ministry said, adding that they may get some state support now to increase production.

Output of durum will rise by 2025 also due to a 35% increase in the sowing area and use of new technology, the ministry added.

As a result of the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, the poverty rate in Russia has increased to 13.5%, comprising around 20 million people, Putin told his annual press conference last week. (Reporting by Polina Devitt; editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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