The Turkish market has been experiencing a significant rise in potato and onion prices, two staples of Turkish dinner tables. Consumers were naturally quite unhappy with this situation and a lot of speculation has been made in the market to understand why this dramatic rise had happened.
Turkey Minister of Agriculture Ahmet Esref Fakibaba: “We have enough potato production in Turkey, our annual production is around 5 million tons and our consumption is around 4.5 – 4.7 million tons so we actually export around 300,000 tons of potatoes annually. However we have experienced some shortage in the market due to climate conditions causing late harvest in some production areas. Some middlemen used this as an opportunity to stock products and to intesify the supply shortage in the market to artificıally increase the prices. Now we have intervened and the prices are starting to come down. We will take necessary measures to stop these kind of actions from the middlemen. The prices went as high as 1.5 USD per kg at retail and normally it should have been half of that price. Now it is slowly coming down.
“Our growers do not need to worry about potato imports. This was a one time thing we did to drive down the prices in the market so our citizens did not suffer any longer due to these prices. The imports will not continue.” Fakibaba said. “I have been the minister for a year now and I have learned how agricultural sector works and where we have problems. One year the grower cannot sell some of his products so he stops growing that product or reduces his production and grows other products. A lot of growers does that for one particular product and then we have a shortage of supply in the market the next year and the prices go up. That’s why we want to implement some price guarantees as the ministry to ensure that our growers keep continue growing their products every year.”
The government had imported around 4,000 tons of potatoes from Syria and drove the prices down from 1.5 USD per kg to 0.75 USD per kg at retail. However despite the Minister’s declaration about these imports being a one time occurrence, various sectoral organization are still skeptical about it. The associations are also concerned that potatoes are imported from Syria where there was an ongoing civil war for many years and many chemical weapons were used in the territories. These associations have noted that there are significant food safety risks about these imports and are asking whether any food safety tests were applied to these imports to ensure their well-being. They are also questioning why Syria was selected as the import source when there are many countries available to import from.
Okan Gaytancioglu, a senator from opposition party CHP, has made some accusatory claims where he argued that imported potatoes from Syria were actually potatoes grown in Turkey and sent to Syria for storage and now being brought back to the country to create unjust profits for ruling party members and their associates.
However Turkey Agricultural Credits Cooperatives Association strongly denied this claim and stated that the potatoes were grown in Syria and were imported to solve the supply shortage problem in the market. On the production side, the harvest of potatoes and onions have started in various regions which is expected to normalize the market conditions without the need for importing potatoes.
Sandikli district of Afyon, located in western Turkey, is one of the main production regions in Turkey for potatoes and growers have started the harvest earlier this week. The price at the grower changes between 0.20 – 0.35 USD per kg depending on the size and the harvest is expected to continue for another 4 months. The growers add that 0.30 USD is an acceptable price for them and added that the prices increase too much until it reaches to the end customers and that this is not the grower’s fault and they are making marginal profits. Growers receive around 3.5 tons of potatoes per 10,000 square feet in the area.
Potato harvest also started in Inegol district of Bursa, located in northwestern Turkey. Currently there are 100 million square feet of production area for potatoes in Inegol and the expectation is around 40,000 tons. The price at the grower is around 0.45 USD per kg.
Speaking about the current market and production for potatoes and onions, Chamber of Agriculture Association Chairman Semsi Bayraktar: “The supply of potatoes in this season is coming from Adana (5%), Hatay (3.1%) and Izmir (8.3%). So at this period the supply is coming from only 3 areas and due to disease in Hatay and decline in production areas in Izmir, we experienced a supply shortage and price increase in the market. Now the harvest is starting in many areas and the prices are going down. The price have already dropped to 0.8 USD per kg range, imported potatoes were influential in this drop as well. The potatoes are sold at around 0.4 USD range at the grower. The growers are under heavy pressure by the wholesalers to reduce the prices but we need to protect growers’ interests and ensure their profitability so they will continue growing and we don’t have to resort to imported products in the future.”
However despite the optimistic views regarding upcoming harvest from production areas, there are some discouraging news coming from Afyon, an important potato production area. Due to heavy rain, mildiou disease is spread in potatoes in the region which is concerning the growers. The disease will cause serious losses in the production and may result some growers to close the season with significant financial damage.
Source: Fresh Plaza