Farmers to take to streets unless current policies revised, association warns

Farmers to take to streets unless current policies revised, association warns

Farmers to take to streets unless current policies revised, association warns Farmers may soon hit the streets unless the sector’s deep problems are resolved, a leading association has warned, adding that the agricultural sector has become a scapegoat in explaining why the inflation rate is so high. 

The head of the Turkish Union of Agricultural Chambers (TZOB), Şemsi Bayraktar, harshly reacted to a number of policies which he said have been putting huge pressure on farmers.

“Food prices have been accused of being the main reason behind the skyrocketing inflation rate. While their share is nearly 3 percent, what is behind the remaining 8 percent? Why should, for instance, the impact of the transportation costs not be voiced? Nobody is talking about this,” he said at a press meeting in Ankara on July 31.

Turkish inflation cooled for the second straight month in June, showed the data in early July, as a drop in food prices led to a lower-than-expected 10.9 percent increase in annual consumer prices.

The data marked a further fall from the 8.5-year peak of the 11.87 percent hit in April.

The government cut customs taxes late in June on meat and a number of grains that have a direct or indirect impact on the prices of red meat, white meat, bread and egg, including wheat and corn, in a bid to ease the rising food prices amid the reaction from farmers. 

The government also defined customs-free import quotas for grains and meat to the Turkish Grain Board (TMO) and the Meat and Milk Board (ESK) on July 29.

“People who feed others are not praised in this country. I am saying this with deep sorrow. Unless there is a change in this tendency, I am warning that we will hit the streets,” Bayraktar said, adding that one policy hitting farmers was following another.

“Amid such wrong policies, farmers quit producing and flock to big cities. Why is this trend not discussed?” he asked. 

The decree in June has pushed down the wheat prices sharply during harvest time, Bayraktar said. 

“One ton of wheat for bread making was 1,000-1,050 Turkish liras and of wheat for pasta making was 1,050-1,150 liras before the decree was released on June 27. Following the decree, the former’s prices regressed to 800 liras and the latter’s prices to 900 liras. Even farmers in northwestern Turkey saw 750 liras,” he noted. 

As soon as prices started to decline, the TMO should have immediately acted and maintained producer prices, but it did nothing. The agency waited until July 12 to announce its intervention price. The agency offered 940 liras for a ton of wheat for bread making, quite lower than what could meet the producers’ needs,” he said, adding that droughts became another factor which hit farmers badly.

For the new decree, which gives authority to the TMO to import 750,000 tons of wheat, 700,000 tons of barley, 700,000 tons of corn and 100,000 tons of rice on a customs-free manner and to the ESK to buy 475,000 tons of sheep and 20,000 tons of carcass meat, Bayraktar said these measures would push down the prices and further hit producers.

Saying the authority given to the ESK was also not good, Bayraktar noted that nobody was talking about how Turkey paid more than $5 billion to import meat between 2010 and 2016.

“The main problem with the meat sector is low milk prices and high feeding costs. The authorities cannot solve these problems by allowing more imports, but by boosting production through new incentives,” he added.