Europe’s top rice producer Italy has seen consumption of the staple rise throughout the coronavirus pandemic, putting even pasta in the shade. It’s not just popular at home either — China itself has even signed a deal to import Italian rice. The Chinese have their eyes on varieties used to make typical risotto dishes. Spread over 220,000 hectares (545,000 acres) and cultivated by 4,200 producers in all, Italian rice production totals an annual 1.5 million tonnes.
The country boasts more than 200 varieties in all, each with its own peculiarities. Even so, Europe is a mere lightweight when it comes to global production. It has just 0.4 percent of the total world output of 500 million tonnes a year, 90 percent of that Asia-based.