Italian pasta group Colussi has purchased Riso Eurico Italia from Montedison‘s Cereol company, signifying Montedison’s first major food divestment since its parent Fiat conglomerate announced a strategy stressing energy at the expense of food business.

Colussi, through its Pasta Agnesi, paid €15.5m (US$13.97m) for its enlargement in the rice sector. It now controls 12% of the market and aims to overtake Scotti (14%), the undisputed market leader remains Gallo (23%), however. The Italian rice sector in worth €0.46bn a year.

Cereol annually produces 60,000 tons of ‘white’ rice, while Colussi (annual sales €335m) considers pasta and rice its core business. It aims at a business volume of €500m by 2005.

Montedison’s divestment of Cereol has sparked speculation further sales of its food businesses could be imminent; vegetable oil could likely be next. Italian media have highlighted however that divestment in the rice field could mean an increased focus on vegetable oils.

By Hilmi Toros, correspondent