Turkey fights with food terrorism

The Financial Times
Turkey fights with food terrorism

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, has ordered that food, dubbed “people’s vegetables”, be sold at heavily discounted prices as he vows to step up a fight against food “terrorism”.

Financila Times in the article Turkey orders sale of discounted produce to fight food ‘terrorism’ writes that municipality-run stalls — offering cheaper tomatoes, potatoes, onions and other vegetables — opened this week across Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey’s two biggest cities. The government is seeking to ease resentment over the rising cost of basic goods ahead of next month’s local elections.

Turkey has been dogged by high inflation since last year’s currency crisis, which was triggered by a row with Donald Trump, US president, that ignited investor fears about the health of the economy. While overall consumer price inflation has fallen to 20 per cent from its October peak, food inflation has continued to rise, hitting 31 per cent in January. Prices of produce such as peppers, aubergines and onions have more than doubled over the past year. Food producers have said the higher prices are down to the rising cost of labour, fuel and fertiliser, as well as tornadoes that have hit the fertile south-east.

However, Mr Erdogan has blamed “speculators and stockpilers”, ordered inspections at warehouses and shops, and warned of a food-related terror campaign by unidentified actors. “They have begun to play games in Turkey,” he told a rally this week. “The prices of tomato, aubergine and pepper have begun to escalate. This is terrorism.”

Stubbornly high inflation has alarmed Mr Erdogan’s ruling party. A foundation of its 16 years in power has been rising prosperity, especially for the poorest.

In a sign of the pressure on households, dozens of mostly elderly people queued for hours at the new municipal-run vegetable stall in Ankara’s central Sihhiye district on Tuesday. Some of those waiting in line backed Mr Erdogan’s narrative that the economy was being undermined by malicious attacks. “It is all part of a foreign game,” said Mahmut Caglar, 58, who was queueing with his wife. “They are working against our president.”

Others put the blame elsewhere. “I am an economics graduate,” said Abdullah Bekim, 62, a retired civil servant. “It is not the job of the municipality to sell vegetables. The government needs to fix the wider economy.”

Mr Erdogan has promised that more discounted products will be added to the stalls, including household detergents. It was unclear how the government was able to offer such cheap prices. Ankara municipality said in a statement that it was making savings by buying directly from agricultural co-operatives, as well as providing free transportation. But with prices at the discounted stalls lower even than the wholesale cost, analysts said that either the government or the municipality must also be providing a subsidy.