(AGI) Rome, March 23 - Italy is Europe's biggest manufacturer of durum wheat, but the four million tonnes produced last year was not sufficient to cover demand by the pasta industry which was 5.8 million tonnes. Some of the famous national dish has been made from foreign durum wheat since the second half of the 19th century, according to a study by the association of Italian pasta and sweets industries, AIDEPI. Russia was the main supplier, but today most wheat is imported from Canada, France, Australia and the U.S. AIDEPI chairman Riccardo Felicetti said: "Our goal was to shed light on some controversial issues related to durum wheat and pasta, because misinformation does not help the consumer make informed choices. We should not forget that pasta is the basis of the Mediterranean diet. It is a healthy, tasty and safe product and its quality is guaranteed by companies that have been producing it for centuries, passing on know-how from father to son." Italians would have 30 percent less pasta to eat without imports and Italy would lose its position as world leader in pasta production and export. It would seriously damage the industry and other industries connected to pasta exports, such as olive oil, cheese and tomatoes. Many believe that Italian pasta is made from Italian wheat but that is a myth. High quality Russian and Canadian wheat started supplementing Italy's pasta demand a long time ago. The current deficit of wheat, 30 to 40 percent depending on the weather, is below the 70 percent in the late 19th century. At that time, cargoes of wheat arrived at the ports of Naples, Genoa and Bari, with 90 percent from the Black Sea, one of the best and expensive varieties on the market. Since then, imports have remained stable at around 2 to 2.5 million tonnes of durum wheat a year. The amount of land used for production in Italy has remained more or less the same, but yields have more than tripled, from less than one tonne per hectare to three or four, as demand grew. Pasta production increased rapidly over the last 80 years, to 3.46 million tonnes last year. Exports rose from 5 percent to 58 percent of total production from 1955 to 2015.. .