Ankara announces ambitious measures in bid to ease skyrocketing food prices
ANKARATurkey’s Food Committee has decided to take a number of measures to raise storage and monitoring standards and to diversify foreign trade dynamics and marketing methods in order to curb a persistent rise in food prices, which have played a key role in pushing up the country’s inflation rate.
Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek, who heads the committee, told state-run Anadolu Agency that the committee held a meeting late on May 5, two days after the April inflation data was released.
The annual inflation rate reached its highest level in around nine years as a result of a weak Turkish Lira in several sectors, according to official data released on May 3.
Consumer prices in Turkey rose 11.87 percent year-on-year in April from 11.29 percent in March, data from the Turkish Statistics Institute (TÜİK) showed. Annual consumer price inflation was also at the highest level since October 2008. April’s consumer price inflation was driven by food prices, which rose 1.23 percent from a month earlier, according to official data.
Şimşek said maintaining the inflation rate at single-digits was a priority for the government, adding that highly fluctuating food prices had a negative impact both on the inflation outlook and its predictability.
A number of short-term measures to ease the rising prices of unprocessed foods have been defined during the committee meeting, he added.
The latest situation regarding some medium-term and long-term structural issues was also assessed, Şimşek also stated.
Şimşek said a series of foreign trade measures in unprocessed food products will be taken by considering supply continuity in the domestic market, describing this step as “one of the key measures on the road to averting ongoing fluctuations in food prices and to easing hikes in inflation.”
“We will take crucial measures in the short run to examine and monitor the competition conditions in certain points of the supply chain and to boost inspections to detect unlawful storage activities in preservable food products. We have also been working on tax incentives to increase supply levels. We will apply alternative marketing channels in fresh fruits and vegetables of which the prices show a baseless up or down trend. The implementation process will start as soon as possible,” he said, adding that other measures would be taken in a second committee meeting in this month.
From agricultural fields directly to consumers
In some street bazaars, the price of some produce like tomatoes has risen by 70 percent in recent weeks. Red meat prices have also continued to rise, despite a number of measures to ease costs for consumers.
This trend has fueled a blame game among food producers and retailers, with each accusing the other of hiking prices.
Industry officials and economists say there are deeper structural problems, from the lack of a long-term agricultural policy to a supply chain hindered by middlemen and arcane bureaucracy.
Şimşek said it would be of great importance to solve structural problems in the sector and to increase agricultural production in the long term at the same time when some short-term measures were being taken.
Saying that the Food, Agricultural and Livestock Ministry took a series of measures to increase the production of the imported agricultural output in Turkey, Şimşek added that these would be followed by some regulations on supply chain, licensed storage and producer associations.
“We will soon enable the transfer of unprocessed food products directly to consumers after the harvest season ends,” he said.
Şimşek also added that new measures would be applied in setting bread prices.