Battling a sharp rise in food costs, Turkish authorities opened their own markets on Monday to sell cheap vegetables directly to shoppers, cutting out retailers who the government has accused of jacking up prices.
Crowds queued outside municipality tents to buy tomatoes, onions and peppers in Istanbul’s Bayrampasa district, waiting for an hour for items selling at half the regular shop prices.
The move to set up state markets follows a 31 percent year-on-year surge in food prices in January and precedes local elections next month in which President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party faces a tough challenge to maintain support.
Traders blamed storms in southern Turkey’s farming region for food price inflation, as well as rising costs of labor and transport. Authorities called it “food terror” and said they would punish anyone trying to keep prices artificially high.
“This was a game. They started manipulating prices, they tried to make prices skyrocket,” President Tayyip Erdogan said in a campaign speech on Monday.
“This was an attempt to terrorize (society),” Erdogan said.
Under the government initiative, municipalities are selling vegetables at around 50 percent of prices recorded by the Turkish Statistical Institute in January. A maximum of three kilos of goods per person is allowed.
The move will be extended to rice and pulses such as lentils, as well as cleaning products, Erdogan said.
The project is currently taking place only in Istanbul, where around 50 sites are selling the cut-price goods, and in the capital Ankara. That means it is unlikely to have a direct impact on national inflation figures, but could mitigate the price rises for residents of Turkey’s two largest cities, writes VoA.
Erdogan orders detergents to be included, Albayrak goes further
President Erdogan roared in campaign speech that fruit and vegetables was just a start, heralding that municipality markets will soon start selling household cleaning supplies, such as detergents, soaps, paper towels.
Albayrak went further, serving notice to grocery chains that the municipality stores are ready to sell any food item, where Ankara deems the price “excessive”.
A massive blow to the supply chain and food retailing
AKP’s attempt to lower food prices is nothing but pork-barreling. It is certain to fail, as opposition papers report queues reaching 1.7 kilometers and waiting times of 1.5 hours. Since variety is limited, the shoppers still need to waste time by visiting traditional outlets to complete their basket.
With few benefits, this strange method of populism, deals a sledgehammer blow to the agricultural supply chain, cutting out thousands of intermediaries and small logistics companies which make a living by buying and transporting food from farms to cities. Also hurt are thousands of fruit and vegetable hawkers in big cities open bazaars, which can’t compete with municipality store prices.