Turkey has witnessed dramatic inflation in onion and potato prices in June, drawing criticism from the people and stirring public debate on social media. The cost of a kilogram of onion rose to 6.5 Turkish Liras (1.4 USD) with 212 percent monthly increase, while potato prices rose to 6 Turkish Liras (1.3 USD) with 94 percent monthly increase.
The union of Turkey's agricultural chambers reported on June 30 that the highest rate of food price inflation in June was recorded for onion with 110.82 percent, followed by potato with 50.73 percent, and tomato with 38.91 percent.
Şemsi Bayraktar, the chairman of the union of Turkey's agricultural chambers, noted that the rise in prices resulted from limited supply due to potato disease is seen in the fields of Hatay province, and the contraction of potato farming lands in Ödemiş district of İzmir province. For the onion, on the other hand, the rise in prices resulted from the recent negative weather conditions and the contraction of farming lands.
In an effort to curb prices, Turkey's ruling AKP government recently allowed potato import from Syrian soil that is under the control of Turkish forces. Uğur Toprak, a member of the executive board of Turkey's chamber of food engineers, stated on June 30 that the area of potato import from Syria corresponds to an area of military conflict, and that the soil might have been influenced by chemical attacks.
TURKEY IMPORTS ALMOST ALL OF AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS
According to a local media report on food products imports in Turkey, almost all of the agricultural products and carcass meat is being imported in Turkey due to neo-liberal agricultural policies. The report reveals that wheat and corn is imported from Russia, rice from Russia and the US, pulses like beans and chickpeas from India, Mexico and Canada, and carcass meat from Poland, France and Bosnia.
In 2017, Turkey imported 224 tons of white-winged meat. While 90 percent of it was from Iraq, 9 percent was from Hungary. While Turkey made its 50 percent of fish export to Holland in 2017, it imported fish like mackerel, salmon, tuna and sardines. Turkey imported the highest number of fish from Norway, with 35 percent in 2017.
The import of pulses raises the hottest debates since Turkey has the capacity to cultivate 95 percent of the pulses it imports. However, due to neo-liberal agricultural policies, in the last 15 years, Turkey's production of white beans decreased by 50 percent, chickpeas by 46 percent and cowpeas by 40 percent.
According to the figures of the chambers of agricultural engineers, while an average of 517 thousand tons of chickpeas were released to the market between 2011-2015, only 484 thousand tons of it were produced in Turkey. Until 2011, Turkey was a net exporter of chickpeas, and yet the condition was reversed by 2012. The total chickpea export of Turkey between 2003-2011 was 882 thousand tons, while its import was 37 thousand tons. From 2012 to October 2017, the total export of chickpeas of Turkey decreased to 127 thousand tons, while its import rose to 265 thousand tons.
NEO-LIBERAL AGRICULTURAL POLICIES ALMOST FINISHED PRODUCTION
At the beginning of 2018, Turkey's ruling AKP government issued a seed law ruling that farmers using non-certified seeds would not get governmental subsidies. By putting a ban on the use of ancient seeds dried by the villagers, the AKP government compelled the use of imported hybrid seeds. The use of imported hybrid seeds not only means paying eight times more money for the same amount of vegetable seeds, but also causes great loses in the soil quality of cultivation areas.
The AKP government also decreased import tariffs for agricultural and carcass meat products in 2017, thus promoting imports rather than national production on the grounds of offering lower prices to the consumers. This resulted in the push-out of farmers and animal breeders from production. Although Turkey is a homeland of wheat, for example, it became an importer in the recent years.
Through an amendment in the regulation on agricultural lands in January 2018, the AKP government facilitated the plunder of agricultural lands by the capitalist corporations for road and energy investments.
Turkey has been importing more meat in recent years to decrease the price of meat. Poland is one of the biggest suppliers for Turkey. Apart from Poland, Turkey imports beef from other countries like Bosnia as well. At the end of January 2018, 20 tons of beef carcass meat imported from Bosnia to the market turned out to contain E.coli 0157 bacteria. Public health experts commented back then that the time of the contaminated meat import from Bosnia coincided with the scandalous food poisoning in the military barracks in the summer of 2017. Some 731 soldiers had been poisoned from the contaminated meat in Manisa province of Turkey in June 2017.