December 1, 2008 / 6:24 PM / 10 years ago

Truffle fetches 130,000 pounds at auction

Hong Kong-born casino mogul Stanley Ho (R) is seen in Macau on a television screen as he is congratulated after buying an Italian white truffle weighing just over 1 kg for $200,000 (130.000 pounds) as three operators watch him during an international auction held simultaneously in London, Abu Dhabi, Macau and Rome November 29, 2008. Defying the economic downturn, the prized tuber went for the second year running to Ho, auction organisers said. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

ROME (Reuters) - Defying the economic downturn, an Italian white truffle weighing just over 1 kg (2.2 lb) sold at an international auction Saturday for $200,000 (130,000 pounds).

The prized tuber went for the second year running to Hong Kong-born casino mogul Stanley Ho after an auction held simultaneously in Rome, London, Abu Dhabi and Macau, auction organisers said.

Last December, Ho bought a 1.5-kg specimen — one of the biggest truffles unearthed in half a century — for a record $330,000.

The 1.08-kg truffle — the biggest found in Italy this year — was flown first class to Macau, with an Italian chef accompanying it, for Saturday’s auction after it was picked on November 21 in the central Molise region.

Truffles can vary considerably in size and are prized in Italian cooking for their flavour and aroma.

Output of white truffles — which are not cultivated and only grow naturally in forests — has fallen in Italy over the past few years, largely because climate change has brought a damaging mix of drought and torrential rains.

Scarce supply has pushed prices for normal-sized truffles above 4,000 euros (3,307 pounds) for one kg and Italian restaurants have kept purchases to a minimum, although demand from foreign restaurants has remained stable, truffle associations say.

Editing by Michael Roddy

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