Western economic sanctions on Russia have hit consumers in Turkey, with soaring food prices and rising inflation raising global food security concerns.
Turkey was already on the verge of high inflation, which reached nearly 55 percent in February. Despite government measures to curb the trend, food prices are the highest in decades.
Last week Turkey’s Meat and Milk Board increased the price of red meat by 48 percent, dealing a new blow to households struggling to make ends meet.
The price hike on red meat is part of an effort to “protect a balance in supply and demand,” according to the Trade Ministry, which cited the formation of long queues for the food item.
The price of 1 kg of minced beef increased from 56 to 83 liras (3.8 to 5.6 U.S. dollars), with the price of 1 kg of chopped meat leaping from 62 to 92 liras, just a few weeks before the Muslim month of Ramadan, due to start on April 2 in Turkey.
Experts have said that the Ukrainian crisis has exacerbated global food security concerns.
“The world is heavily dependent on Ukraine and Russia for wheat, with these countries accounting for a quarter of global trade,” Enver Erkan, chief economist at the Istanbul-based Tera Securities, told Xinhua.
Nations worldwide are waking up to the threat of a global food crisis and are taking steps to secure their own resources, Erkan said.
“Protectionist measures, which have already increased in recent years as the COVID-19 pandemic raises scarcity concerns, could bring worse news for the global food trade and put pressure on food inflation,” he said.
Meanwhile, Turkish citizens are struggling to adapt and survive in the face of the lira’s crash against the U.S. dollar and soaring inflation. The Turkish currency lost over 60 percent of its value since the beginning of 2021, decimating the purchasing power of households.
For Turkey, soaring grain and oilseed prices, coupled with agricultural bottlenecks and a weak currency, spell disaster for the poor, said Atilla Yesilada, an analyst at GlobalSource Partners.
He referred to a recent study showing that 11.37 million people in Turkey, or over 13 percent of the country’s population, received state financial support in 2021, up from 4.4 million in 2020.
Fearing short supplies, consumers in Turkey rushed to grocery stores in early March to empty shelves due to the rising price of cooking oil, a staple food in Turkey.
Despite reassurances from the government that the country had enough reserves of sunflower oil, the Ministry of Agriculture announced that it was banning all exports of oils and margarine. Red meat exports have also been restricted.
Experts have also blamed Turkey’s woes on foreign agricultural dependency, making the nation even more vulnerable in times of crisis. They agree that a severe food shortage is unlikely, but food prices are expected to rise in the coming months.
Turkey also imports barley, corn, cotton, sunflower seeds and rice to satisfy local demand.
“When you rely on imports, this leads to producers moving away, leading to a drop in domestic production and thus to a food shortage,” said Ali Ekber Yildirim, a prominent expert and author on agricultural policies. ■